This page last updated July 2008 and now ARCHIVED.
Climate change has potential risks for the UK, most critical of which is the frequency of extreme climatic conditions. The occurrence of hot, dry summers is likely to increase while the chance of extreme cold winters will decrease. Average temperature is expected to increase by 1.5°C by 2050.
We will look at the following areas:
Flora. Fauna and Landscape
Manufacturing and Construction
Recreation and Tourism
Higher temperatures would reduce water holding capacity, increasing soil moisture deficit. Stability of building foundations in areas of clay soils would be affected. Would affect level of water table, and salinity. Poorly drained soils would become less of a problem,
Flora. Fauna & Landscape
Any sustained rise in temperature would tend to lead to species movement. Rates of climate change may be too fast for tree species to adapt genetically and native species may be lost Increased invasion of alien weeds, pests, diseases and viruses. Increased competition from foreign species of invertebrates, birds and mammals.
Climate is the most significant factor in determining plant growth and productivity. Higher temperatures would decrease the yield of cereal crops (such as wheat), although the yield of crops such as potatoes, sugar beet and forest trees would increase. Pests such as Colarado Beetle and rhizomania, limited by temperature could be more prevalent Length of growing season for grasses and trees would be increased by about 15 days per degree Celsius increase. Opportunities later on to introduce new crops. Change in vegetation will change the albedo.
Change in extreme weather events
Effect of sea level rise
Effect of increased carbon dioxide concentration on plant growth
Effects on production
Adaptations in Agriculture
Ecosystems would be affected differently
Increase in mean sea level, and frequency and magnitude of storms, storm surges would lead to more frequent flooding. Number of low-lying areas are vulnerable: coasts of E. Anglia, Lancashire, Fens, Essex mudflats, Thames estuary, Clyde/Forth estuaries. Flooding would result in short term disruption to transport, manufacturing and domestic sector.
Climate change and sea level
Water resources would benefit from wetter winters, but warmer summers with longer growing seasons and increased evaporation would lead to greater pressure on water resources, especially in the SE of the UK. Higher temperatures would lead to greater demand for water, for irrigation, and for abstraction of water from rivers.
Effect on hydrological cycle
• increase in air temperature would increase potential evpt
• individual catchments may respond differently
• increase in duration of dry spells will not necessarily lead to an increased likelihood of low river flows and groundwater levels since increases in precipitation will be experienced in other seasons
• increased rainfall will increase flood risk
• increased snowmelt
• freshwater ecosystems may be affected by rise in temperature and inundation by seawater
Higher temperatures would lead to less space heating demands, but increased demands for air conditioning may entail higher electricity use.
Energy use is responsible for 75% of man made C02 emissions. There are 3 main areas where energy use can be reduced:
Energy saving in the home (20% of energy is used by domestic appliances)
Reduction in waste production (methane produced from landfill sites)
Could increase the amount of renewable energy - would improve viability of solar power and wind power. Unreliable nature of sunlight would act against further investment.
Manufacturing and Construction
Droughts could affect certain manufacturing industries requiring large amounts of water, such as paper making, brewing, food industries and power generation, and chemical industries. Increased winter rainfall could affect some construction activities, as would more windy conditions.
Return period of extreme events would be reduced, compromising the safety of some structures.
Sensitivity to weather and climate is high for all forms of transport, Snow and ice in winter are a problem, so the reduction in severity and duration of winter freeze would be beneficial. Transport produces 24% of greenhouse gas emissions. Could try to aim for sustainable transport to reduce numbers of cars.
Reducing the need to travel
Reducing / charging for road space
Improving public transport
Insurance industry would be immediately affected by a shift in the risk of damaging weather events. Increase in flood risk due to sea level rise would also be a factor.
Return period of extreme events would be reduced. Less risk of winter damage such as burst pipes.
Property insurance is worth over £6bn in UK alone.
Increase in average temperatures may lead to more intermittent rainfall and drying out of soils.
There are several options they may take
Withdraw insurance from high risk areas
Change the type of insurance policy
Recreation and Tourism
UK tourism has an international dimension sensitive to any change which would reduce its ability to compete with other destinations. Change to warmer, drier, sunnier conditions could increase tourism.
Direct health effects will occur as a result of more extreme climate. Air pollution is also a concern.
May affect heat-related deaths, vector borne diseases e.g asthma could result from increased formation and persistence of pollen, spores and urban pollutants.
Much of the options covered above are included in Agenda 21.
This was a blueprint for sustainable development produced at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
The UK signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change at the summit, and ratified it in 1993.
Also signed the Kyoto protocol in 1997, forcing participating nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% by the period 2008-2012.
One of the ways that people can get involved in collecting evidence about Climate Change in the UK is to join the UK Phenology Network. This is a network of thousands of observers who collect details about the appearance of certain plant and animal species. They note whether certain events happen earlier or later in particular years. These include the following details:
Spring Flowering: including Snowdrop and Blackthorn.
Birds: nest building, arrival of the Cuckoo, Blackbird, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Turtle Dove, Fieldfare, House Martin, Nightingale, Redwing, Rook, Swallow, Swift, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Great Tit
The date that the lawn was first cut, or whether it was cut all year round.
Trees: Spring events relating to the Alder, Ash, Beech, Birch, Blackberry, Horse Chestnut, Elder, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Ivy, Larch, Oak, Rowan, Sycamore
Flowers: Celandine, Bluebell, Colt's Foot, Primrose, Snowdrop
Autumn: Trees - leaves turning & fruiting.
Insects: Bumble bee, Wasp, Ladybird - 7 spot, Butterflies
I joined in 2002, and have now received my recording sheet for the 2003 season in a booklet called 'Nature's Calendar'. The group is related to the Woodland Trust and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
Go to the website and sign up to the observers' network and contribute!
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