Which UK regions will be most impacted by climate change?

Climate change is a major global challenge, and the United Kingdom is no exception. The country is already facing the impacts of a changing climate, and some areas are more vulnerable than others. In this article, we will examine which areas of the UK are likely to be most impacted by climate change and why – and worryingly, large areas of the UK are at risk from heatwaves and flooding.

Climate central has produced an interactive map showing which regions are likely to be below annual flood levels by 2050, but floods are not the only risk.

Here’s how different types of land could be impacted by climate change here in the UK.

1. Coastal towns

Coastal towns are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to rising sea levels and increased storm activity. The UK’s coastline is dotted with towns and villages that are at risk of flooding and erosion. For example, a study by the UK Climate Projections showed that coastal towns such as Jaywick, Kent, and Hemsby, Norfolk are particularly at risk of flooding.

Also, many North Wales Tourist spots like Towyn, Pwllheli, Prestatyn and Talacre face a similar fate – while in the South, Swansea, Aberavon and Gower could all be impacted – along with places like Bridgwater, Gloucestershire and Somerset on the other side of the Bristol Channel.  It’s a worrying picture and many councils in Wales and England are investing in improving their flood defences now.

Some spots like Old Corwen and Carmarthen are already struggling with flooding during stormy, wet weather and it’s an annual threat that is likely to increase.

 

2. Low-lying towns

Low-lying towns are also at risk of flooding as they are located in areas that are prone to flooding during heavy rain or high tides. The UK has a number of low-lying towns, such as Wainfleet in Lincolnshire, which is at risk of flooding due to the combination of high tides and a rising water table.  Residents living near to many rivers in the UK already see regular flooding and these risks will increase as climate change raises water levels.

 

3. Urban areas

Urban areas are also at risk from the impacts of climate change. Which risks will affect each town will depend on location, but some cities are likely to struggle with both heatwaves and flooding, depending on the location.

For example, the city of London is particularly vulnerable to heatwaves and flooding, as a result of its density and the presence of a large number of hard surfaces, which can contribute to urban heat islands in Summer and flooding during rainy weather.  It’s a worrying picture.

 

4. Rural inland areas

While flood risks are lower in rural areas that are not near to any rivers, surprisingly they are also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly in terms of water availability and agricultural production.

For example, droughts in rural areas can affect crop yields and reduce the availability of water for livestock and human consumption.  Large areas of the UK struggled with drought last year, and a record temperature of 40.3 °C was recorded last July in Lincolnshire.  However, the previous record high of 38.7 °C in Cambridge was only recorded in 2019.  It is no secret the planet is getting warmer and wherever you live, you will see some impact.

In conclusion, wherever you live, climate change is likely to have a significant impact on many towns and villages in the UK. Coastal towns, low-lying towns, urban areas, and rural areas are all at risk from the impacts of a changing climate. It is essential that action is taken to mitigate the effects of climate change and to protect British communities from its impacts.

 

 

References:

  • UK Climate Projections (UKCP09)
  • Climate Central (2017) “Sea Level Rise: The Nationwide Threat to US Coastal Real Estate”
  • The Met Office (2019) “The UK Climate: Past, Present, and Future”
  • Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) (2018) “Climate change risks and impacts in the UK”
  • National Farmers’ Union (NFU) (2018) “The impact of climate change on UK agriculture”
  • https://coastal.climatecentral.org