Described by Mark Carney as "sobering reading", the latest advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to the UK government on climate adaptation does indeed make for a very depressing read.
It's not surprising the CCC says it is deeply frustrated that the UK government keeps ignoring its advice and calls the lack of action on climate adaptation “absolutely illogical”, especially as acting is up to 10 times more cost-effective than not acting according to the CCC.
The chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, Baroness Brown, says "adaptation remains the Cinderella of climate change, still sitting in rags by the stove: under-resourced, underfunded and often ignored...our particular frustration is that after the last climate-change risk assessment in 2016, the adaptation plan that was published was really inadequate. It didn’t address many of the risks highlighted and it wasn’t in any way action focused. A detailed, effective action plan that prepares the UK for climate change is now essential and needed urgently.”
The CCC’s chief executive, Chris Stark, said there was a “willful reluctance” of ministers to factor adaptation into their policies: “That’s because it’s hard, it doesn’t fit with the [five-year] political cycle and it doesn’t have the glamour of net zero attached to it. The government has got to get real about it.”
The risks highlighted by the CCC include increased heatwaves (which can lead to deaths and water shortages), increased flooding and storms (which can affect the power grid and lead to blackouts, increase landslides in places such as railway embankments), etc. Extreme weather overseas could also break supply chains for food imported by the UK. And that's without even mentioning the devastating impacts of climate change on nature and biodiversity.
As Baroness Brown puts it, the severity of the risks we face must not be underestimated. "These risks will not disappear as the world moves to Net Zero; many of them are already locked in." Which is why we have to find ways to adapt to the inevitable.
All of this will require some regulatory changes, for example, requiring new buildings be climate resilient and halting development on floodplains. But the key message from the CCC is that the longer the UK government takes to act, the more it will cost.
The UK government is failing to protect people from the fast-rising risks of the climate crisis, from deadly heatwaves to power blackouts, its official climate advisers have warned.
The CCC’s experts said they were frustrated by the “absolutely illogical” lack of sufficient action on adaptation, particularly as acting is up to 10 times more cost-effective than not doing so.