The earth’s climate has constantly changed throughout history. But it is hard to argue that our climate is rising at a faster rate than ever before, with human activity being a big influence. Globally, evidence of climate change is clear – sea level has risen, global temperatures have increased, ice sheets are shrinking, glaciers are retreating, deserts are growing and there are more extreme weather events. Little notice has been taken of scientists’ warning of climate change for years, but now these events are occurring and are not just a global issue but a local concern.
Here in the UK our summers are getting warmer and drier. Whereas many of us may see this as a benefit, this could in fact be evidence of the extreme weather patterns expected from a warming climate. Unfortunately, extreme weather patterns will not just bring us the advantage of warm summers – we could also expect heat waves and droughts in summers, and in winter we should brace ourselves for more intense and more frequent rainfall, flash floods storms and hurricanes.
Last winter Wales witnessed two of the most devastating storms to hit our coastlines in decades, thousands of lives were affected, hundreds of homes and businesses flooded and millions of pounds of damage caused. The cost of the damage is estimated to be around £11million, with £8 million of damage to coastal defences (NRW, 2014). And we are not just vulnerable to coastal flooding – in 2012 river flooding caused overwhelming damage for communities in Aberystwyth, St Asaph and villages in Ceredigion. Unfortunately, these devastating experiences in recent years are only expected to become more frequent and bigger in scale, particularly as approximately 60% of Wales’ population is situated on coastal fringes, in lowland areas and on valley floors, many of which lie below the high tide level (Assembly Wales, 2011).
Although little can be done to reverse the effects caused by human activity in recent years , more is being done now to mitigate future climate change. Minimising energy consumption in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is vital. More emphasis is being put on better insulation for homes to reduce energy costs, and renewable energy is more widespread, with more wind farms being erected, solar power panels included in new homes and larger companies looking into wave power. More effort is being put into promoting fuel efficient eco cars, or car use is being discouraged completely through better public transport, congestion charges in cities and supporting local communities in order to reduce the need to travel for work, shopping or other services.
Rising sea level and flooding has also led to better use of land and more sensible and sustainable developments being built, restoring derelict industries and buildings, and building with energy efficient designs. It is now more important than ever to ensure new buildings are not built in flood zones, with flood consequence assessments becoming essential for new development.
It is also crucial that better education and awareness is raised so that future generations are capable of managing the flooding and sea level rise expected in the years to come.