Revealed: the frontlines of climate chaos in England
From Norfolk to North Yorkshire, these communities are already facing the effects of climate chaos and are the ones most at risk of further catastrophe.
The list is based on recent extreme weather events and wildlife declines which academic study has concluded were made more likely, or more extreme, by climate change.
- Coastal communities in Norfolk falling into the sea. Communities such as Happisburgh have seen as many as 35 homes claimed by coastal erosion in the past decade. Local campaigners have repeatedly appealed for more government assistance, but this has been refused and obscure laws means that compensation has been refused for those who have lost their homes to the sea.
- Moorlands in the North West being turned into tinderboxes. Soaring summer temperatures in the UK led to moors such as Saddleworth burning for days on end; leaving them as charred husks, ruining ecosystems, threatening local towns and increasing air pollution. With a greater risk of summer heatwaves due to climate change, we may well see wildfires become a far too regular threat.
- York and Leeds disappear under flood waters. York and Leeds saw devastating flooding off the back of Storm Eva in 2015 which led to people having to be evacuated by boat as water levels rose higher and higher. Scientists concluded that climate change had made the flooding more likely. This likelihood is only set to increase if steps are not taken to cut emissions.
- Low-lying communities in Somerset. The winter of 2014 saw floods in the region leave homes and farms completely submerged, which had a knock in effect on farming and production for months. With Centre for Ecology and Hydrology researchers concluding the floods had indeed been worsened by climate change, the prospect of food scarcity and increased prices is becoming very real for UK consumers if the necessary action to avoid further climate chaos is not taken now.
- Farmers facing heatwaves and droughts. As well as extreme flooding, UK farming is also threatened by the risk of regular summer heatwaves, like those seen this year which left farms across Surrey, Kent and East Anglia parched after weeks on end with no rain. Some farmers have noted crop yields lowered by upwards of 40%, which again has serious implications for future food stocks and prices.
- Devon and Cornwall's coastal railways collapsing into the sea. Brutal Atlantic storms led to the collapse of a stretch of sea wall at Dawlish Warren – taking railway track with it. This left the main trainline connecting the region to the capital out of action for months. The impact on the community was all too real, but we must also consider the wider ramifications of key transport lines being disrupted by an increased number of extreme weather events in the future.
Emi Murphy, climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:
“The human cost of climate change, both in England and around the world, is already devastating. It’s the most vulnerable communities paying the highest price, while the UK government fails to commit to the policies needed to avoid climate chaos.
“The Climate Change Act was a truly remarkable political achievement that has driven cuts in UK emissions. But dire warnings from scientists demonstrate how further and faster action is essential to prevent complete climate breakdown. Instead, with its relentless pursuit of fracking, airport expansion, and road building, our government is failing us on climate change.”
- The British Geological Survey investigated coastal erosion in Norfolk, and the increased risk of this due to climate change
- Scientists conclude the probability of the 2018 European heatwave is generally more than two times higher today than if human activities had not altered climate.
- An investigation following the floods of 2015/16 concluded that such extreme regional rainfall has a return period of about five years (20% chance in any given year), and is at present roughly 60% more likely due to human-caused climate change
- The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology: Human-induced climate change increased the risk of severe storms like those that hit the south of England in the winter of 2013/14
- The University of Plymouth investigated the impact of climate change on transport