Happy New Year! I can’t quite believe the final term of my degree is already underway – it has gone so fast! As promised in my previous blog about my policy document essay, I would like to share with you a little about I have found about how the UK can adapt to climate change.
Instead of building new homes in high risk areas, and then protecting them with expensive flood defences, one of my recommendations is that land-use planning is prioritised, whereby homes aren’t built in high-risk areas in the first place.
In the case that there are existing buildings or infrastructure, the financial feasibility of relocating vital infrastructure should be considered. with regards to compensation costs to displaced residents. Natural flood management should also be prioritised over hard-engineering flood defences. Natural defences can be used to slow and store the water all over the catchment, so that the end result is less water in the rivers near towns and communities. Examples include woodland creation, beach widening and enabling river channels and coastlines to return to their natural state, and are far less costly to construct and maintain.
I also recommended that more should be done for safeguarding the well-being and mental health of people in high-risk zones, as increased flooding is likely to raise stress levels, anxiety and depression.
Heatwaves and drought
New buildings and urban spaces should meet strict requirements for capacity to stay cool in hot weather, and innovative examples of heat-resilient buildings, retrofitting and cooling technology can be drawn from countries with existing warm climates. Examples include increasing surface albedo, vegetation and water surfaces, alongside use of materials with a low thermal mass.
I also recommended more direct support for the resilience of vulnerable populations to heat events by providing structural improvements in key social infrastructure buildings, and facilitating the understanding of climate change risks particularly for the elderly, deprived and ethnic minority communities.
Lastly efficient use of water should be prioritised over increased supply, because extracting more water is both damaging for the environment and financially more costly. However some low-income households are not eligible for financial support to afford technology for low-water usage or payments for high water usage, hence further support schemes should be developed.
Impacts to the UK wildlife and ecosystems are extensive, with climate change altering the conditions of many animal and plant habitats. Hence many species are threatened as they are unable to relocate to an area of suitable climate, due to physical barriers (roads, buildings etc.) or lack of a suitable climate space. Hence new building developments should accommodate for shifting species compositions by developing a more coherent network of wildlife corridors, linking isolated habitats to the nearest climate-proof conservation sites.
Another recommendation I made was that an ecosystems-based approach should be integrated into all adaptation strategies, whereby sustainability, conservation and restoration of ecosystems are taken incorporated into heatwave and flood-resilience. This includes increasing vegetation in urban areas, to simultaneously lower local temperatures, decrease flood water run-off, lower air pollution and create wildlife habitats.
These are just a select few of the recommendations I have made as a result of my research! It has been a really interesting essay to write, and I have learnt that there are not always easy answers to climate change adaptation. Many barriers exist to prevent adaptation, from financial to social reason, such as a lack of urgency or perceived threat among the majority of people. I hope you enjoyed reading, feel free to comment below!