Climate change: 'Adapt or die' warning from UK watchdog

In a shocking report, the Environment Agency says the UK is unprepared for climate change.

Oct. 12, 2021 4 minSource

In its most shocking report so far, the Environment Agency says the UK is not ready for the impacts of climate change.

It says hundreds of people could die in floods as they did recently in Germany.

"That will happen in this country sooner or later", unless the UK becomes more resilient to increasingly violent weather, the agency concludes.

In words that are unusually blunt for a public official, Emma Howard Boyd the EA's chair, said: "It is adapt or die".

The apocalyptic tone is deliberately intended to startle governments, companies and communities into preparing for global warming effects such as higher sea levels and more extremes of rainfall and drought.

The new report assesses the UK's readiness to cope with the many different risks of climate change.

In its response, the environment department, Defra, said it was taking key measures to protect the UK from the effects of global warming.

We're currently heading for an increase in the global average temperature of just under 3C by the end of the century.

But the agency projects that even a smaller rise of 2C would have severe consequences:

According to Ms Howard Boyd: "We can successfully tackle the climate emergency if we do the right things, but we are running out of time to implement effective adaptation measures.

"Some 200 people died in this summer's flooding in Germany. That will happen in this country sooner or later, however high we build our flood defences - unless we also make the places where we live, work and travel resilient to the effects of the more violent weather the climate emergency is bringing."

She added: "It is adapt or die. With the right approach we can be safer and more prosperous. So let's prepare, act and survive."

The terrible loss of life in Germany last July is a reminder of the last time flooding led to a massive death toll in the UK.

Back in 1953, a storm surge killed 307 people in England and 19 in Scotland.

That tragedy forced a radical rethink about flood protection and a massive investment in coastal defences that eventually led to the Thames Barrier in London.

Now, as officials across the UK weigh up future phases of flood defence, the report identifies what it calls five "reality checks" about climate change:

The agency calls for new thinking on flood protection, closer partnerships between government and businesses, and projects to restore natural systems that absorb carbon and hold back rainwater.

It acknowledges that billions of pounds have been spent on flood defences - and that more is earmarked.

And it recognises that the UK, as host of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next month, is highlighting the importance of helping communities and nature adapt to climate change.

In response, the environment ministry Defra highlighted several key measures designed to adapt to a changing climate: £5.2 billion to better protect 336,000 properties from flooding and coastal erosion; a national framework to manage water supplies; and a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund to tackle climate change and adaptation together.

A spokesperson said: "We are taking robust action to improve resilience to climate change across the whole country and economy, and adaptation to climate change is integrated in policies throughout government.

"We're also using our COP26 presidency to drive climate adaptation around the world, protecting communities and natural habitats."

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