Climate change warning for East

WATER shortages and increased risk of flooding, subsidence and pollution are faced by the east of England as a result of climate change, according to a new report.

By David Green

WATER shortages and increased risk of flooding, subsidence and pollution are faced by the east of England as a result of climate change, according to a new report.

It warns local authorities and businesses in the region to "act now" ready to adapt to climate change before it is too late.

The report - endorsed by the Government - said the region was likely to be one of those most affected by changes caused by global warming and faced hotter, drier summers and milder, wetter winters.


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It suggested that hundreds more of the region's residents would die of skin cancer each year as a result of increased exposure to the sun and that coastal erosion would be accelerated.

It also suggested the region's farmers should prepare to face new crop pests and diseases and that rail track specifications might need to be changed to prevent buckling in the summer heat.

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However, hotter summers might also bring good news for the region's tourist industry with more people choosing to holiday in the east.

The report, into the likely impact of climate change on the region, has been produced by the East of England Sustainable Development Round Table (SDRT) - made up of delegates from the regional assembly and the East of England Development Agency and organisations representing conservation and business.

It suggests there will be impacts on:

HEALTH SERVICES

An increase is likely in heat-related deaths and illness, food poisoning and skin cancer, although illness and death caused by cold weather should be reduced. Preventative care will become more important, such as ensuring people regularly use UV sunscreens. Local authorities may need to consider installing natural cooling and ventilation systems in care homes and there are likely to be increased costs in social care in terms of adapting existing facilities to cope with more extreme temperatures.

WATER RESOURCES

The East of England is already the driest region in the country and water resources are already over-stretched. More problems are likely as the result of meeting demand for nearly 500,000 new homes up to 2021. Local authorities will need to place greater emphasis on good design to ensure new buildings incorporate the most effective environmental technology and minimise demand for water.

LOCAL AUTHORITY SERVICES

Pollution incidents may increase as a result of flash floods which overload sewers. Hotter summers may require more frequent domestic waste collections. Milder winters should reduce the need for salting and gritting. Action will be necessary to conserve the natural environment, providing space for species to adapt and creating new habitats as others are lost.

DEVELOPMENT

Demand for new homes in eastern England is expected to aggravate water shortages. The Government expects another 478,000 homes will be needed in the region by 2021, including a further 58,600 in Suffolk.

ROAD AND RAIL

Rail track specifications may need to be changed to present buckling in the heat and roads will require improved drainage systems to cope with flash floods

COASTAL FLOODING AND EROSION

Sea level rise and more storm surges are likely to lead to increased flooding and aggravate coastal erosion. Areas of the coast could become "blighted" by increased risk of flooding.

FARMING AND OTHER BUSINESSES

Farmers could be faced with shortages of water for irrigation. New pests and diseases could affect plants and farmers might also need to consider new heat or drought-tolerant crops. There may be opportunities to develop new markets for crops suited to the region's changing climate. Vineyards could become more widespread. Refrigeration of foods transported over long distances would prove a challenge.

The automotive industry is likely to experience an increase in demand for vehicles which perform better on wetter roads while high-tech engineering firms could benefit from demand for renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels.

TOURISM

Domestic holidays could become more popular as the summers get hotter, people choosing not to frequent the Mediterranean where temperatures are likely to be even more extreme. Some schemes to help wildlife adapt to climate change - such as the creation of new wetland nature reserves - could become tourist attractions in their own right.

WILDLIFE

Unique habitats could be lost, including wetlands. Hotter drier summers could bring new species in to the region from more southern climes. Milder temperatures could also cause other species to depart or, if they are relatively immobile, to become locally extinct. There will be a need to create new habitats to replace those which will be lost, especially on the coast.

INSURANCE

More householders face increased premiums as companies revise their risk assessment procedures. Norwich Union has already started this process. Some insurers could withdraw their willingness to "cover" certain properties.

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