45% of Brits say UK is ‘not at all prepared’ for changing climate

Pictured: Wildfire near Ongar, Essex, last summer

That is according to the National Trust, which has today (20 June) released the results of a new survey of more than 2,000 adults in the UK. The survey measures opinions on climate adaptation, ahead of the publication of an updated Government plan due later this year.

National Trust stated that the UK’s changing climate is not “visible only to an expert eye”.

One-quarter of those polled said they are already personally impacted by climate change and a further third say they expect their daily lives to be impacted within the next decade.

The most common identified impact at the moment was exposure to heatwaves and other extreme weather. Just last week, Britain baked in a heatwave and hosepipe bans were implemented across the South East. Last year, the UK experienced a prolonged drought.

Additionally, eight in ten of those polled said the UK will be impacted by the degradation of nature caused by a changing climate.

Looking to the future, three-quarters of people think that insurance premiums will rise, and 82% believe heatwaves will come with additional public health risks.

When asked whether they believe that the Government and other key bodies are prepared for climate change, only 4% agreed that they were. 45% said they are “not at all prepared”. Gaps were, in particular, noted in relation to the management of roads and railways.

“Facing into the effects of climate change is the elephant in the room,” said National Trust’s climate change advisor Keith Jones.

“We need a frank conversation but also urgent action to address the level of risk we face, what we’re prepared to live with, and ambitious targets that can be measured and monitored. This isn’t just an environmental issue – it’s a whole society problem that the Government must fully address in its upcoming strategy. Right now, it’s in the ‘too difficult’ pile and that’s not acceptable.”

 MPs on the Joint Committee on National Security last year warned that, in having no ministers responsible for planning to make key transport, energy and communications infrastructure more climate-resilience, the UK is leaving itself exposed, MPs are warning.

Beyond looking at ministerial structure, National Trust is calling on the UK Government to set a time-bound, science-based target for climate adaptation – much likes its 2050 net-zero goal for climate mitigation.

This could be included in the forthcoming National Adaptation Plan, due out later this year.

The current state of play

March saw the Climate Change Committee (CCC) publishing a new progress report to the UK Government on climate adaptation. The advisors concluded that there is a “striking lack of preparation”.

Of the 45 adaptation outcomes examined by the CCC, only five had the required policy milestones in place to deliver them. Policy gaps were found in relation to agriculture, energy, water and transport systems, as well as telecoms and buildings.

Back in 2021, the CCC forecast warmer, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters for the UK over the coming decades, contributing to higher damage bills. That report classified some 60% of risks as the highest level of urgency, up from 36% at its last assessment in 2016.

Whether the global temperature increase on pre-industrial levels is capped at, or exceeds 2C, the UK is unprepared in terms of its infrastructure and policy, the CCC warned.

Looking at the National Trust specifically, the organisation estimates that 71% of its sites will be at a high or medium risk of climate-related hazards by 2060 in the worst-case scenario. At present, 30% of its sites fall into this risk category. The Trust is in the process of developing its own strategy on adaptation.

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