MPs slam UK Government’s approach to extreme weather resilience, demand swift action

More than 4,500 heat-related fatalities were recorded in England during the summer of 2022.

Today (19 April), the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published a new report, assessing the most serious risks facing the UK or its interests overseas over the next few years. Nearly 11% of all the risks assessed are extreme weather events including droughts, high temperatures and heatwaves, floods and storms.

The report highlights that with the escalation of global temperatures, the frequency and severity of extreme weather events are expected to increase, and recent weather hazards underscore the necessity for the Government to enhance its preparedness for such risks.

As per the findings, Storm Arwen resulted in estimated insurance losses of £250m to £300m, while more than 4,500 heat-related fatalities were recorded in England during the summer of 2022.

The Committee emphasises that the Government’s focus on short-term reactive responses to extreme weather events undermines the development of medium- and long-term resilience in the UK.

According to the report, the nation’s infrastructure, including critical components like roads, rail, power and data centres, is ill-equipped to withstand extreme weather events.

Earlier this year, the interim report for the London Climate Resilience Review (LCRR), commissioned by the Mayor of London in 2023, found that London remains unprepared in the face of climate-induced hazards.

During the July 2022 heatwave alone, Transport for London (TfL) reported an £8.4m revenue loss across their operations.

Green groups have filed a lawsuit against the Government in the High Court, arguing that its national climate adaptation plan is insufficient in safeguarding individuals, assets and infrastructure against the effects of climate change. As a result, the court has mandated a judicial review of the strategy, scheduled to occur on the 18th and 19th of June.

Call for immediate action

The Committee underscores the urgency of addressing these vulnerabilities and calls for immediate action to strengthen the country’s resilience infrastructure. Key recommendations include:

  • The Cabinet Office to work with HM Treasury and relevant departments for improved preparedness and risk management
  • Urgent action from the Cabinet Office by 2028 to implement a coordinated investment approach for resilience, including private sector involvement
  • A call for clear targets and standards for resilience, specifying desired outcomes and risk tolerance levels
  • Improved engagement with communities and vulnerable groups to understand and address the disproportionate impacts of extreme weather events
  • Establishment of a Government Chief Risk Officer by 2025 to oversee the identification and management of cross-cutting risks
  • Clarification of roles and responsibilities for developing and maintaining national resilience across central and local Government and private sector
  • Measures to assess and enhance the capacity and capability of local organisations in contributing to UK resilience

Climate change threatens global economy

In related news, recent research found that even if carbon dioxide emissions were drastically reduced starting today, the world economy is already slated to undergo an income reduction of 19% by 2050 due to the impacts of climate change.

This reduction is six times larger than the costs required for mitigating global warming to the target of limiting it to 2C.

This is according to a study conducted by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), using empirical data from more than 1,600 regions worldwide spanning the past four decades to assess the future economic impacts of shifting climatic conditions.

The analysis indicates that global annual damages are estimated to reach $38trn by 2050, with a likely range of $19-59trn. These damages primarily stem from escalating temperatures, alongside alterations in rainfall patterns and temperature variability. Furthermore, the inclusion of other weather extremes such as storms or wildfires could exacerbate these damages even further.

The research underscores that within the next 25 years, climate change will inflict massive economic losses on nearly all countries across the globe, including highly developed nations like Germany, France and the US.

It emphasises the urgent need for heightened adaptation efforts to mitigate these impacts. Additionally, immediate and substantial reductions in emissions are deemed imperative.

The report warns that failure to do so will result in even greater economic losses in the latter half of the century, potentially amounting to up to a 60% reduction in global average income by the year 2100.

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    The overwhelming proportion of Government decision makers are not scientists, and certainly not in that speciality of climatology. It is no longer sea-weed stuff, and it is vital for all our futures that close attention is paid to the best information available, and not left unaddressed.
    Listen to the best informed, they may not always be “Spot-0n”, but are still the best!!
    Physics and Chemistry win over the seaweed!

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