Thursday, January 10, 2008

Impact of climate change on life in the UK in 50 years time

Neil Adger (Tyndall Centre) presents his view of life in Britain for someone born in 2007 in 50 years time.

Most of the doomsday scenarios painted here are the standard fare. Floods, migration, social disruption, diseases.

Climate choices: adapt or move [ChinaDialogue]

A British child born in 2007 will be 50 in 2057. What will life be like for our 50-year-old citizen? Here is a plausible scenario:

Summer top temperatures will be around 38C (100F), winters will be shorter and floods more frequent. To combat the latter, the government already will have controlled, through the planning process, where people live. Houses, businesses and land already in risky areas will have lost value because insurance companies will have withdrawn protection. People will simply choose not to live in risky areas. But, as now, climate change will retain the ability to spring unforeseen weather surprises.

Climate change will have brought about significant population shifts, primarily relocating the world's poor. Mediterranean Europe, North Africa, California and the southwest United States in 2057 has become severely water-stressed. In the northern hemisphere, there are frequent severe storms with concurrent summer droughts. The UN climate reports’ predictions in 2007 were right: up to 500 million people in south Asia and Africa live with incomes that put them at risk from hunger. This has exacerbated political instability in the worst-affected regions, including in the Horn of Africa and west and southern Africa.

Despite the problems of planning risk, the rush to the coast, begun in the 20th century, continued: 350 million people had moved to the coastal cities of China by 2027. These cities by the sea invested heavily to protect their new infrastructure from rising sea levels, flooding and limited fresh water. Adaptation is easier done with new building than in the ancient European capitals. All continents lose agricultural productivity. The rural poor stay poor.

Public health agencies in 2057 are stretched by new diseases and the resurgence of malaria, diarrhoea and dengue fever -- diseases transmitted through pests and in water. The three decades from 1970 to 2000 saw 30 emerging infectious diseases, including HIV, Ebola, Lyme disease and toxic E. coli, and the trend continues. In rural Africa, health-care needs overwhelm national health agencies. Ill health acts as a significant constraint on Africa's economic productivity.

A major issue for the UN is the fair allocation of migration-compensation quotas. This proposal is for polluting countries to allocate emigration quotas to affected countries on the basis of historical responsibility for the pollution and subsequent extreme weather that led to displacement. The proposal is fiercely resisted by the major pollution of the G8+4, who seek limited immigration by skilled workers, rather than taking on environmental refugees.

Given what we know about climate change in 2007 and where it will have the most impact, future migration, in effect, will be a failure of adaptation to climate risks. The decision to adapt or move leads to tough choices now and in the future for the people of Tuvalu, Happisburgh and other vulnerable regions across the world.


1 comment:

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