Temperatures in Britain have risen by approximately one degree Celsius since the 1970s. Most scientists are in agreement that, even if carbon emissions are reduced to zero by the year 2050, an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius is likely to occur within the next three decades. While there's nothing we can do to reverse what we've done, we can limit future damage.
Britain has made great strides during the last decade, not only meeting European Union targets, but exceeding them well in advance. However, our work is far from complete. We need to continue cutting emissions quickly and sharply, and everyone needs to be on board.
Britain has already had a major setback with the abolishment of the Department of Energy and Climate Change; therefore, it's more important than ever that we, as citizens of our country, place pressure on the government to make positive changes. Here are just five problems that could occur if we fail.
There will be increased pressure on the National Health Service
Increased temperatures will cause a major rise in heat-related mortality. According to the Health Protection Agency, related deaths could increase by 540 percent by the 2080s. In 2003 2,139 people in Britain died from heat during the summer, primarily from vulnerable parts of society (elderly, babies, medically ill). The heat wave that caused the deaths has been universally recognized as the result of climate change. Warmer conditions could also cause mosquitoes to flourish and rapidly spread diseases such as malaria.
Flooding could end up costing the economy billions each year
"I never thought it would happen so close to home" - a phrase that seems to be echoed throughout Britain whenever there's a sudden flood. The most recent climate change risk assessment states that flooding is one of the biggest threats to the United Kingdom. It is without a doubt the most visible problem that's stemmed from climate change and already costs the economy millions per year. Insurance companies are paying out more than double in comparison to the 1950s, and if climate change continues moving in the same direction, it could cost the economy up to £12 billion per year by the 2080s.
Water security and energy will be in short supply
Decreasing river flows, reduced groundwater, and faster/greater evaporation rates is all contributing to water loss. Without taking population increase and the rising demand for water into account, current estimations state that 27 to 59 million people could be affected by water deficits by the 2050s. Britain must be largely de-carbonised by 2030 if it's to meet global targets. However, at present, it's all a bit of a catch 22. According to Energy Company Numbers "coal and nuclear is the only real-world energy source capable of generating electricity at the scale that the United Kingdom needs. Without these sources, we'd be in the dark. In an ideal world, renewable energy will be the number one in the future, but corporations are not yet ready to invest at the scale that is needed." While we can't expect overnight changes, we need to place pressure on energy suppliers so they'll move in the right direction.
We could lose our precious wildlife and damage our natural heritage
Warmer summers result in longer and more intense droughts, which could have a direct impact on the cultivation of crops. Maize, sunflowers and peaches are of particular concern. One of the most distressing problems, however, is the impact climate change has had on North Sea bird populations. Warming water is ridding the seas of plankton, causing many birds to literally starve to death. Hundreds of dead birds wash up on North Sea beaches daily and, according to the RSPB, six key species in Shetland and Orkney have almost completely failed to breed during the last decade.
Sea levels could rise and make our coastlines vulnerable
A 2009 study conducted by UK Climate Projections concluded that a sea level rise of between 13cm and 76cm could occur in the UK by 2095. But even more worrying is the possible increase of storm swells on the south coast of England, which could become 10 times more frequent by the turn of the century. This will make our coastlines - including the River Thames - particularly vulnerable. Aside from the damage to our natural heritage and coastal towns, some suggest that all of Britain's sandy beaches could literally be washed away within 100 years.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not just our children, or our children's children that will suffer the consequences of our actions. Climate change is already affecting us, and will continue to do so - and on a much greater scale - well within out lifetimes. We must all start taking action now!