UK Could Be Rocked by Climate Change Far Away

LONDON, UK, July 15, 2011 (ENS) – International instability, disruption of essential infrastructure serving global markets and energy supplies are among the climate change impacts from abroad that could affect the United Kingdom at home finds a new report, published by Foresight, the government’s futures think tank.

In fact, climate change in other countries may impact the UK more than climate change at home, according to the report, “International Dimensions of Climate Change.”

Professor Sir John Beddington, the government’s chief scientific adviser and the project’s director said, “Our world is getting warmer, and the UK’s extensive international economic, political and cultural ties mean that the UK is at increasing risk from impacts of climate change overseas.”

Professor Sir John Beddington and Vivien Life of the Foreign Office, launch the Foresight report International Dimensions of Climate Change, July 11, 2011. (Photo courtesy FCO)

International instability could increase as a consequence of climate change, either directly through extreme weather events and water system stresses, or indirectly as social and political systems in vulnerable parts of the world come under increasing strain, the report warns. The health of UK residents and the UK’s role on the global stage could also be affected.

“The UK must not respond by becoming insular but instead broaden its international reach to tackle climate change,” Beddington said. “This report is designed to help government consider how these impacts will be felt here in the UK so we can better prepare and adapt for the future.”

Also, the UK has a moral, political and legal obligation to support certain regions that are particularly at risk from the effects of climate change, such as small island states which include many of the UK Overseas Territories.

Impacts of global temperature change, water stresses, sea level rise and extreme weather events could affect the overseas resources and infrastructure on which the UK depends, including communications networks and data centers, the report warns.

Foreign Office Minister for Climate Change Henry Bellingham (Photo courtesy FCO)

Speaking at the international launch of the report, Foreign Office Minister for Climate Change Henry Bellingham said, “As the Minister with responsibility for Africa, I know all too well how strategic a threat climate change is on a continent that is already seeing climate change impacts.”

“Reports such as this, as well as high level forthcoming debates in the EU Foreign Affairs Committee and UN Security Council, have an important role to play in furthering analysis and awareness of the serious impacts of climate change,” Bellingham said.

The International Dimensions of Climate Change project was jointly funded by the Government Office for Science, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

The project involved over 100 climate experts and policymakers from universities, government, think tanks and the private sector, including Dr. Richard Betts, who heads the Climate Impacts research team in the Met Office Hadley Centre and Professor Andrew Sentance, a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

The report argues that the financial sector and business generally may fail to properly evaluate and incorporate changes in the balance of risks associated with climate change overseas.

UK firms managed worldwide assets of £1.2 trillion in 2008, and the failure to accurately assess their level of exposure to climate change impacts may result in these assets being insufficiently protected.

Man in the Mount Kenya region watches dry topsoil blow away as dust. (Photo by Neil Palmer courtesy CIAT)

The UK’s financial exposure to overseas climate change impacts may increase if international business and financial policy frameworks do not adequately account for climate change, and institutions are exposed to additional risks and uncertainties as a result.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, said, “As John Beddington’s report recognizes, the effects of climate change extend beyond environmental concerns into geo-political considerations.

“For the international community to deal with these challenges we must adapt together to ensure sustainable economic growth, maintain global stability, and support developing nations and countries particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” said Spelman.

The report demonstrates how the UK is closely interconnected with the global economy, and has an important role in addressing risks internationally.

Opportunities in business, finance and global leadership may result from the warming climate, the report points out.

Business and financial opportunities for key sectors of the UK economy, either where there are recognized strengths in engineering, in insurance and in climate forecasting or where new opportunities are generated because of the need to reduce emissions or adapt to climate change.

Green technologies, particularly in the energy sector, such as carbon capture and storage, and new forms of financing for the green economy are ripe for development.

The global environmental and low-carbon market was estimated to be £3.2 trillion in 2008-09 with a predicted four percent growth rate to 2013-14, with the UK forecast to achieve up to 3.9 percent growth in these areas by 2016.

The project’s evidence base will inform the UK’s first Climate Change Risk Assessment to be published next January, as required by law through the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.