Risks to the UK from climate change now higher than ever, says major new report

Today [Wednesday 16 June, 2021] the Climate Change Committee (CCC) publish their Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk Evidence Report. Informed by a 1500-page technical report, the assessment highlights an array of climate risks which could affect the UK, with threats ranging from temperature increases, rising sea levels, heavier rainfall and increased duration of drought.

York residents evacuated by boat during 2015 flooding event

The latest climate change risk assessment highlights the increased risk of flooding to communities across the UK, such as this event in York in 2015. Picture: Shutterstock.

The Independent Assessment is the result of more than three years of work, with input from over 450 experts from 130 organisations. The team of experts, led by the University of Exeter in partnership with the Met Office, prepared the CCRA3 Technical Report.

Climate change is a global issue, with global impacts. The technical chapters set out the latest understanding of current and future risks climate change brings to the UK, both directly to the country itself and also via impacts elsewhere in the world, and on adaptation actions aimed to reduce these risks.

Professor Richard Betts MBE is Chair in Climate Impacts at the University of Exeter and Head of Climate Impacts Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre, and led the writing of the Technical Report.

Professor Betts said: “Met Office science has provided key new science to underpin the Risk Assessment. The UKCP18 climate projections are central to the report, and the previous UKCP09 projections were also used in much of the literature assessed. The Met Office also did new research on wildfire, extreme weather, and implications of tipping points in the climate system for the UK.”

The report assesses the climate change risks in scenarios of 2°C and 4°C global warming by the end of the century. This represent the range of future global warming that could arise from current worldwide policies relating to greenhouse gas emissions. Even higher rates of warming are possible if future emissions are higher than expected, or if feedbacks in the climate system are strong.

You can hear more from Professor Richard Betts in conversation with Grahame Madge on the Met Office’s Weather Snap podcast.

The world is currently not on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  As the UK prepares to host COP26, the UK Presidency has set clear goals. It will call on all countries to update their emissions reduction targets, so that they are in line with holding temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and securing global net zero. The CCRA3 Technical Report highlights the implications of climate change for the UK’s ability to meet their commitment to net zero emissions.

The report also informs the benefits for society and the economy of taking strong action to adapt to climate change now, which aligns with the COP26 goal on adaptation. Countries will provide a summary of what they are doing and planning to do to adapt to the impacts of the changing climate, the challenges they face and where they need help. By sharing these plans will help us learn together and share best practice between countries to move to a resilient, net zero economy.

Albert Klein Tank is the Director of the Hadley Centre. He said: “The UK climate change risk assessment incorporates the most up to date peer-reviewed climate science to help everyone understand the impacts that climate change will exert on the UK’s resilience. We know that climate change is already happening and the effects will increasingly gain momentum.

“The risk assessment looks at two futures for the UK: one where global efforts to tackle climate change are actively pursued and one where there the action is more restrained.  Neither pathway allows us to live in a world immune from the impacts of climate change, but one supresses the worst impacts.

“We’re proud that Met Office science is at the heart of the risk assessment and we look forward to expanding the breadth of our science to find sustainable ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while finding ways for society to adapt to the climate-related changes which we are already committed to.”

Climate change impacts for the UK are inevitable, but ambitious joint action to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change can help to reduce the risks for future generations.

Today’s report sets out the CCC’s advice to Government ahead of the publication of the Third Climate Change Risk Assessment (known as CCRA3), which is due to be laid before Parliament in January 2022. As required by the UK Climate Change Act every five years, CCRA3 will provide a comprehensive view of the risks and opportunities facing the UK from climate change. This provides the UK Government and devolved administrations with the evidence base who must then set out their response in their national adaptation programmes.

The final reports are available at: www.theccc.org.uk (advice report) and www.ukclimaterisk.org (technical report and supporting information).

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