Climate change: Advisers warn of climate change domino effect
Climate change could have a domino effect on infrastructure in the UK, government advisers say. The Climate Change Committee says flooding will destroy bridges, wrecking electricity, gas and IT connections carried on them. They warn that poor farming means the most fertile soils will be badly degraded.
And heat-related deaths among the elderly will triple to 7,000 a year by the 2050s as summer temperatures rise. The UK is not prepared, the committee says, for the risks posed by climate change from flooding and changing coasts, heatwaves, water shortages, ecosystem damage and shocks to the global food system.
The projections are based on the supposition that governments keep promises made at the Paris climate conference to cut emissions - a pledge that is in doubt. The committee says if emissions are allowed to spiral, London summer temperatures could hit 48C (118F) in an extreme scenario, although the advisers say they don't expect that to happen.
The report from 80 authors is the most comprehensive yet on the potential impact of climate change on the UK. It identifies 60 risks and opportunities - many of them happening already as the climate has warmed.
Its conclusions on the inter-linking nature of threats to infrastructure is based on recent research. The chairman of the committee's adaptation sub-committee, Prof Sir John Krebs, told BBC News: "Infrastructure could be affected in a way that interacts.
"So, if you take electricity supply, the delivery of fuel to power stations might be affected by flooding which would then affect electricity.
"Then look at flooding… if bridges are affected then they carry electricity cables and communications infrastructure, so we have to look not just at how each piece of infrastructure works but how they interact together.
On food and farming, the committee warns that UK shoppers could face higher food bills as imported crops like soya are harmed by heat or drought. It says farming in the UK might benefit from more warmth but warns that soils are likely to dry out quicker, and that rain is more likely to arrive in unhelpful downpours.
The committee also says some of the UK's most fertile land - the peat fields of the East Anglia fens - are suffering badly from decades of intensive farming.
Prof Krebs said 85% of the peat had been washed or blown away, and the rest would follow in coming decades unless farmers were more careful.