UK’s hottest year highlights Government’s failure to tell public about impacts of climate change

Posted on 5 Jan 2015 in

Responding to the publication today (5 January 2015) by the UK Met Office of provisional figures showing that 2014 was the hottest year in the UK since records began in 1910, Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“The new record set by 2014 is part of a pattern, with the UK’s eight hottest years all having occurred from 2000 onwards. The UK also last year experienced its fourth wettest year on record, and it means that five of the six rainiest years have occurred from 2000 onwards. We know from basic physics that as the atmosphere warms it holds more water, leading to heavier rainfall.

“This is clear evidence of the impact of man-made climate change on the UK. However, the latest assessment by the independent Committee on Climate Change shows that the UK public is largely unaware of how climate change is affecting their exposure and vulnerability to extreme weather events. For instance, a majority of people who live on a floodplain do not believe that they are at any risk of flooding, and a recent survey indicated that the average person thinks the risks of heatwaves is decreasing rather than increasing.

“The lack of awareness of the UK public of how climate change is already affecting them represents a colossal failure by the Government and its agencies, including the Environment Agency and the Met Office, to communicate with the public about this issue. In particular, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has utterly failed to invest enough resources in communication about climate change even though it has lead responsibility for ensuring the UK becomes more resilient to its impacts. Indeed, the Department was, until recently, headed by a Secretary of State who even denied the risks of climate change.

“It is now clear that it was a mistake that the 2008 Climate Change Act did not make it a legal requirement for the Government to communicate with the public about the risks of climate change and ensure that households and businesses are able to take well-informed decisions about how to make themselves more resilient to the impacts.”

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (https://www.cccep.ac.uk/) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.
  2. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (http://www.lse.ac.uk/grantham) was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (http://www.granthamfoundation.org/).