Thursday 18 June 2009

Climate Change - a major report indicates what we can expect in the UK

Climate change is on the agenda again today (indeed it is such an important issue that is should never be off the agenda) as Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, launched the UK Climate Projections (UKCP09). These give detail to how we might expect the climate of the UK to change in coming decades. for an introduction to these projections go to

No-one should be surprised!
Predictably, the projections are not good news, but they should be no surprise to anyone. A “greenhouse effect” was first proposed about 200 years ago and carbon dioxide was identified as the main greenhouse gas around 100 years ago. By the 1970’s it was very clear that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (by burning coal, oil etc), while at the same time damaging the earth’s ability to react to these changes (i.e. by damaging biodiversity) was bound to change the balance of this greenhouse effect - hence global warming. After 30 or 40 years of procrastination at least the subject of global warming is mainstream even if our reaction to it is sluggish.

Inevitable change – adaptation is as important as reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
The government claims that it will pursue a concerted action programme to address climate change. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case, but they have set out a broad 5-point plan and I am glad to see that “preparing for the future” (i.e. adaptation) is included. Temperatures are very likely to increase by around 2 degrees before 2050 even if we react responsibly now (which we probably wont!), and continue to grow even further after that point. I am not convinced, however, that predictability can be that precise. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if our current relatively amicable climate changed into something that was much more unpredictable, with perhaps wide swings between hot and cold, wet and dry.

A healthy environment must form the basis of any future strategy for climate change.
Whatever happens, our environment must be able to adapt. Consequently we need a long-term vision for land-use. We need a healthier environment where the best sites for nature are conserved, enhanced, expanded and joined up to make the natural environment more robust, allowing people and wildlife to adapt to these changes. For a better idea of what we mean by this see our climate change strategy at:
and see our Living Landscape documents at:

Furthermore, restoring the natural environment will enhance our essential ecological services, such as carbon storage in peatlands, purification of water through reed beds and flood management in wetlands.

A brave new approach is needed.
However, the current approach of fiddling around the edges of existing policies has failed us for too long. Without a long-term vision for the future of our land with joined up decisions on agriculture, planning, water management and more, the future looks very bleak.

Furthermore, the impacts of climate change on wildlife are not restricted to land. Marine wildlife also needs the flexibility to adapt to climate change. More than 50% of the carbon dioxide we produce is absorbed by the sea which is why we must act now to ensure we manage our marine environment sustainably.

A brave new approach with a large-scale vision is what we are seeking from government.
The Government must now show political will by investing in large-scale habitat restoration and creation. It is vital for the natural environment to be placed at the heart of adaptation programmes.

1 comment:

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