‘Dad’s Army’ climate policy: what rising temperatures mean for the UK

Committee on Climate Change likens government efforts to tackle crisis to antics of hapless leaders in classic sitcom

Smokestack; climate change

The UK government’s “ramshackle” approach to tackling the effects of climate change poses “a real threat to the population”, experts are warning.

The latest annual progress report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says that Britain is lagging far behind other countries in efforts to cut emissions and prepare for heatwaves, flash flooding and other climate-related problems, according to The Guardian.

The newly published report notes that funding for programmes to deal with these issues has been cut and that just one of the 25 emissions-cutting policies recommended by the CCC in 2018 has been delivered in full.

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Lord Deben, who chairs the committee, said: “The whole thing is run by the Government like a Dad’s Army. We can’t possibly go on with this ramshackle system, it doesn’t begin to face the issues. It is a real threat to the population.”

So how much of a threat does climate change pose to the UK, and is it too late to take action?

What effect will climate change have on the UK?

According to climate scientists Kate Sambrook and Thomas Richardson, on a global scale “the science is settled: human emissions of greenhouse gases have already led to a rise in global temperature of more than 1°C”, leading to record-breaking heatwaves in Australia and cold snaps in the US already in 2019.

“In the UK meanwhile, winter temperatures soared past 20°C for the first time ever,” the University of Leeds researchers write in an article on The Conversation.

“Britain is not particularly known for intense heatwaves, vicious hurricanes or snowstorms. But, in a world that is getting warmer, climate change will mean the country experiences more and more extreme weather.”

Experts suggest that if emissions continue to increase, there is an “increased chance of milder, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers” in the UK, while the country may also see an “increase in the frequency and intensity of hot days and heavy rainfall events”.

A 2012 study for the UK Government found that extremely wet winters could become up to five times more likely over the next 100 years if climate change is left unchecked, with “more intense downpours in the winter months driving a greater risk of flash floods and river flooding, alongside risks from sea-level rise”, The Guardian reports.

“The government estimates that annual damages from flooding alone could increase to between £2bn and £12bn by the 2080s.”

The Times adds that severe heatwaves such as the one felt in Britain last summer were also twice as likely as a few decades ago, leaving a fifth of homes and buildings prone to overheating.

What measures are necessary?

According to the BBC, policies are needed to “ensure that people living in care homes, hospitals and flats can stay cool in increasingly hot summers”, while ministers “must show how funds will be found to protect critical infrastructure - like ports - from rising sea levels”.

The CCC suggests that one way of tackling the crisis would be to plant 1.5bn new trees over the next 30 years to increase woodland cover from 13 to 17 per cent in the country. This equates to planting an area of 30,000 hectares every year. But Wired reports that in the year to March 2019, only 13,400 hectares were planted in the UK.

The news site reports that wind and tidal power would also benefit the climate. However, it notes that while the UK has installed more offshore wind farms than any country, the government “recently rejected plans for what would have been the first tidal lagoon power plant in Swansea Bay”.

It also warned that “ambitious targets will not be met unless radical new policies are drawn up in the next 12 to 18 months”, Sky News reports.

But while some targets could still be met if the government acted now, the CCC reports that some goals are now impossible to achieve. In its report this week, the committee said the government's 2040 goal to eliminate emissions from cars and vans was too late.

The BBC reports that the CCC is now claiming that unless it delivered on these issues, the government would “not have the credibility to host a global climate change summit of world leaders, likely to be held in the UK next year”.

Doug Parr, from Greenpeace UK, said the CCC’s report was a “truly brutal reality check on the government’s current progress in tackling the climate emergency”, adding: “It paints the government as a sleeper who’s woken up, seen the house is on fire, raised the alarm and gone straight back to sleep.”

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