Are we ready for climate change?

Greg Davies 2022

Greg Davies
Director of Market Development, Assurity Consulting
17th May 2024

The session was titled, “Is climate change making the UK less safe?”, and received evidence from experts including:

  • The Baroness Brown of Cambridge DBE - Chair of the Adaptation Committee at Climate Change Committee;
  • Professor Stephen Belcher - Chief of Science and Technology at Met Office;
  • Margaret Read - Director of Policy at National Infrastructure Commission;
  • Erin Sikorsky - Director at Centre for Climate and Security; and
  • Dr Helen Adams - Senior Lecturer in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation at King's College London.

The committee listing for the session stated, “climate change affects the security of nations and of individuals in many ways. Extreme weather caused by climate change, such as flooding, droughts, heatwaves, and sea level rise, can undermine food and water security, disrupt supply chains and critical infrastructure, and damage people’s homes and health.”

Perhaps the starkest warning came from Baroness Brown whose view was “we are not ready at all”.

Perhaps using one of the topics, food, as an example illustrates the picture. Figures from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and others indicate over three quarters of our fruit (84%) and (45%) of our vegetables are imported. Many imported goods can also be very cyclic, 90% of the lettuces we eat coming from Europe in January, but by the Summer we produce 95% of our own (tomatoes are the same at 85% and 60% respectively) (BBC figures).

However, on the 5th December last year, the research by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) £8billion worth of our imported foods come from countries being hit by “extreme weather”, and this includes staples such as bananas, rice, tea, coffee and sugar.

So, both local and/or international extreme weather events could have a profound effect on supply and cost at different points in the season. More seasonal produce thinking, targeting specific crops, or sourcing alternative means of supply are answers, but where are we currently with these?

Alarmingly to finish and in the words of Dame Brown, “As of yet, we don’t have a plan which could show what a well-adapted UK would look like and so we don’t know if we are going fast enough or in the right direction.”