We don’t need to look far to see the health impacts the weather can have and how important it is to build in climate change resilience:
- Hurricane Sandy claimed 121 lives, cut power to over 8 million homes and rendered the water supply for many unsafe to drink
- The 2003 heat wave on the continent caused 35,000 extra deaths
- The flooding in Gloucestershire in 2007 caught us out, when all four access roads to the town became impassable and, for the first time in its 100-year history, the Mythe Water Treatment Works flooded, resulting in the loss of tap water for 140,000 homes over a period of two weeks.
I have always had an interest in climate change and sustainability, so on Wednesday I went along to a very well attended meeting of the East of England Climate Change Adaptation Network, representing Milton Contact Ltd.
The focus of the meeting was health and well-being, with contributions from the NHS sustainability team, NHS Bedfordshire, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, Essex County Council, The Environment Agency and Defra.
These organisations have a responsibility to reduce their own impact on the climate in terms of carbon and energy use and to make plans to help keep us safe in extreme weather conditions.
They are also keen to encourage us all to share that responsibility: We can make changes to the way we go about our daily lives; we can make changes at work which not only save money, but can improve the health and perhaps the safety of the staff; or we can make plans to help us get through severe weather events unharmed and with minimal disruption to business continuity.
When we buy a house or set up a business here in the UK, we generally ensure that the roof is watertight and the windows exclude drafts when it’s cold, but open to allow the house to cool off when it’s hot. We fit heating to keep us warm and a clean, safe supply of drinking water is taken as given. We even take out a variety of insurance policies to help us out financially when things go wrong.
But are we ready for the changes that our weather may throw at us?
Some may think this is for future generations to worry about, but recent events indicate that we should be prepared.
We can all take steps now to be prepared and help protect ourselves, our homes and our businesses. It needn’t cost the earth and might even save us money.
We should not be complacent and believe this is for others to worry about. We can save energy – we can take the bus, walk or cycle occasionally – we can buy locally produced foods – and we can adapt to reduce the impact of extreme weather.
What will you do today to reduce the impacts on you and yours?
As a first step, I would encourage you to check the Environment Agency’s flood risk map to find out whether your home or business are at risk of flooding.
Go to http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/default.aspx and click on Flood Map.
A review paper in Nature estimated that in 2000 a global death toll of 150,000 was attributable to global warming. Jonathan A. Patz, D. Campbell-Lendrum, T. Holloway, et al., “Impact of regional climate change on human health,” Nature, 2005, vol. 438, pp. 310-317.
Follow Jane on Twitter @sustainmi