COP26 has seen leaders from around the world pledge stronger action on climate change. But while the vast majority of us recognise that a warming planet is a threat to the world, do we know what it means for our lives closer to home?
In June, the UK’s independent advisory body on climate change — the Climate Change Committee — published its latest assessment of climate risks to the UK. The report sets out what could happen to the country — and what our lives could look like — if we don’t take immediate action to reduce our emissions.
Given rising temperatures are already happening, it’s likely that, by the mid-century, we will be seeing more dramatic weather. Wetter winters, drier summers and more extreme temperatures at both ends of the scale will become part of all of our lives. Recent examples of weather incidents — like the West Midlands floods of last year — could become much more common.
The committee’s report explores how these shifts in weather will have knock-on effects in every aspect of our lives. In doing so, it details hundreds of risks, set across eight priority areas, which it says need urgent action. Some of the most urgent include: threats to biodiversity; risks to supply chains for vital goods and services; risks created by a failing power system; and adverse consequences for health and wellbeing from increased exposure to heat.
It says that, by the 2050s, heat-related deaths could triple — a dramatic increase on the 2,500 deaths reported during the most recent summer heatwave — with particular action needed to protect care home residents and hospital patients. Rising sea levels will bring additional problems, potentially resulting in two million more people and their homes being at risk of flooding.
As the report makes clear, the nature of many of these risks is accelerating: with 56 per cent marked as requiring the highest level of urgent response (compared with 36 per cent in 2016). ‘These risks will not disappear as the world moves to net zero,’ says Baroness Brown, chair of the committee’s adaptation committee. ‘But by better understanding and preparing for the coming changes, we can protect ourselves, our economy and our natural environment.’
Like many countries around the world, Britain has committed to taking urgent and immediate action to address the risks from climate change. But it isn’t just governments and businesses who need to act. All of us have a duty to save our environment.
In its Net Zero Strategy, published in October, the government recognises the role that our choices will play in mitigating climate change. One of the topics covered by the report, for example, is the roll-out of smart meters: which experts say will have a direct role in reducing our emissions (in particular within our energy system).
Smart meters will play a role in decarbonising some of the most important sectors of our economy. This includes reducing home and building emissions; supporting the widespread adoption of green technologies (including electric cars); and helping build a greener and more efficient energy system.
‘Every single smart meter fitted across Great Britain is a positive step towards a truly smart energy system capable of delivering net zero,’ says Iagan MacNeil, head of policy at Smart Energy GB. ‘This will benefit not only consumers, but will also have significant benefits for our future economy and our fight against climate change.’
By upgrading to a smart meter, you will be playing your role in helping make that happen. Take action today — and make the smart choice for our environment.