From hosepipe bans to an increased cost of living, climate change will affect everyday life in many different ways.
It’s no secret that climate change will have a major impact on the planet. Temperatures will rise, weather will become more extreme and unpredictable, and the delicate ecosystems we rely on for food, water and medicines will be significantly disrupted. But what does this mean for us in the UK on an everyday level? Here are six ways life will change because of climate change.
- We’ll become a nation of shade-seekers
Brits may be known for their love of the sun – the first warm day of spring always sees parks and beaches crammed with day trippers looking to soak up some rays – but in the future the sun will become something of an enemy.
According to the Climate Change Committee, flats in London have already reached temperatures of 47.5C– and that’s in September! This means many buildings will become uninhabitable, so there will be a new emphasis on shade. People will use curtains throughout the day to block out the sun’s heat, and the worst-affected buildings will need to fit external blinds and shutters to avoid overheating.
- Hosepipe bans will become commonplace
You might think that the UK, with its regular rainfall, has more than enough water to go around, but many areas of the nation are already under water stress, and this is set to get worse as dangerous heatwaves and drought become more frequent.
Right now, the government is trying to mitigate this growing water deficit by tapping natural environments such as rivers, but this has a detrimental impact on wildlife and ecosystems. As such, we’ll have to conserve as much water as possible and hosepipe bans will be the first measure to be widely enforced.
- The cost of living will become more expensive
Climate change will drive up the price of almost everything we rely on day-to-day. Heating our homes will become more expensive, water will become more expensive, even food will become more expensive as climate change affects farming and global supply chains. Electronics will become more expensive, as climate change will affect the mining of metals needed for parts, and the price of clothing will go up as natural materials such as cotton become harder to grow, and the energy costs involved in manufacturing man-made fibres rise.
For the rich, this will be a mild inconvenience. For those already struggling to make ends meet, the situation will be much more serious, and the gap between the haves and have nots will become increasingly pronounced.
- Vulnerable groups will face greater health risks
According to the World Health Organisation, while climate change may bring about some localised health benefits, such as fewer winter deaths in temperate climates, the overall impact of a changing climate on human health is “overwhelmingly negative”. Serious heatwaves and harsher winters will prove fatal for older people, while increases in temperature and extreme weather events will contribute to the spread of infectious diseases, increased allergens and worse air pollution.
Greater air pollution will be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and those with existing respiratory conditions, but it will affect everyone. If left unchecked, climate change could mean we consult daily air quality reports – much like we check the weather – before we go outside.
- People living near the coast or in flood-risk areas will have to move
Rising sea levels, increased flooding and coastal erosion will mean people currently living in at-risk areas will have to move inland or to higher ground. Relocating is already proving challenging for many who are unable to sell their homes because of the future risks associated with them. Some will have no choice but to stay where they are and face potentially devastating consequences. The scheme Flood Re, which helps people living in flood risk areas to get affordable home insurance, will end in 2039 – many will be stuck without it.
This migration from at-risk areas will drive up house prices in more desirable regions. As with the cost of living, this social consequence of climate change will only heighten the differences between the rich and the poor.
- There will be fewer trees
Tree-planting will play a major role in the mitigation of climate change, as trees act as important carbon sinks. However, a changing climate will mean that our environment will no longer be suitable for many of the tree species we know and love. According to the Forestry Commission’s Tree Suitability Model, by 2050 much of south-east England will become unsuitable for the commercial production of beech and Sitka spruce trees. This means when trees are felled, saplings that are subsequently planted may not make it to maturity. This trend is already being observed in Germany, where 200,000 hectares of forest has died over the last two years due to drought, and in the US, where forests destroyed by wildfires are simply not growing back.
Not only does this mean that we’ll lose important and cherished woodlands, but the price of wood products will skyrocket as we rely on limited imports. The government’s ambitions for net zero will also be at risk, as trees that don’t make it to maturity absorb far less CO2 than assumed.
The bottom line
It’s easy to think of the impacts of climate change in vague terms: ‘it will get hotter’ or ‘the weather will be unpredictable’. But when those changes are translated into tangible effects on everyday life, the critical need to protect our one home is far more apparent. Taking action now to adapt to extreme weather will help to mitigate these consequences in the future.
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