Climate change risks for London by Bevan Jones

News from Caroline Russell: London’s warming – and we’re not ready

01 May 2019

London’s warming – and we’re not ready

London schools, hospitals, tube stations are all at serious risk as global temperatures continue to rise – reveals a startling new report from Caroline Russell AM. It calls for dramatic Mayoral action to protect Londoners. [1]

For the first time, evidence gives an insight of what life will be like in London if we reach 1.5 degrees warming – even hotter heatwaves than we experienced last summer, higher chances of flooding for thousands of homes and hundreds of schools, and extreme strain on emergency services. 

 

Key findings from ‘Climate change risks for London: a review of evidence under 1.5°C and different warming scenarios’, are:

  • Two thirds of London flats could experience overheating (temp over 28°C) by 2030s
  • For every 1°C increase over 20°C ambulance call outs increase by 1 per cent
  • In the most vulnerable districts in London, the odds of dying from cardiorespiratory causes increased by more than 10 percent for every 1°C increase in temperature, compared with virtually no effect in the most resilient districts
  • 23 stations on the London Underground Network are at significant risk of flooding and the Northern and Central lines have the most stations at risk
  • 643 schools are at risk from a 1 in 30 year flood (this is considered high risk)
  • An increase of up to 40 per cent in water supply is needed by 2040 in order to meet the water deficit in London and the South East
  • London, compared with other cities in western Europe, is highly exposed to the financial impact of climate change

 

Caroline Russell commissioned the research after her work lead the London Assembly, and then the Mayor, to join with her to declare a climate emergency for London. [2]

Evidence from key sectors that affect life in London, housing, transport, emergency services, utilities, and workplaces, including schools, was gathered to tally the risks.

Worryingly it was found that crucial information isn’t available, and ‘considerable work must be done to understand London’s exposure to global temperatures reaching 1.5°C by the 2030s.’

 

Caroline Russell says:

We are living in a warming world – and we aren’t ready. Current plans to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C aren’t good enough and the impacts on London of even a 1.5°C rise are severe.

My new report is the start of telling the truth about the impact on London if we don’t take urgent action. Many of the real risks and challenges London, and Londoners, will face on a hotter planet are set out. But it also shows significant areas where more research is needed because we just don’t know what other effects climate breakdown will bring. 

Anyone who commuted through last summer’s heatwave will know how unpleasant that was – these will be normal summers in the next couple of decades. What will that mean for schools, teachers, and school children, during the struggle to stay cool? 

London is an ancient city, and its buildings weren’t designed to keep us cool – and the Victorian infrastructure of our sewers and plumbing just wasn’t constructed with extreme weather events in mind. 

As recently as last week, thousands of people were out in our streets demanding action from the Government, which has been dangerously slow to act against this very real and frightening future.

The time for action is now. I urge the Mayor to tell the whole truth about climate change and fill the gaps this research has shown, so we can know all the risks Londoners face.

He must prepare for these huge changes, London needs to be ready.


Recommendations to the Mayor are:

  • The GLA should prioritise and commission further research and analysis of future climate risk, with a focus on quantification based on the Met Office UKCP18 projections
  • To update the Mayor’s climate adaptation policies and targets in his London Environment Strategy to reflect the risks identified for London in a 1.5°C warming scenario by early 2030s
  • Additional research is needed in specific areas: housing, transport, emergency services, utilities, workplaces and schools
  • The role of the London Climate Change Partnership (LCCP) must be enhanced and its role in commissioning and advising the GLA must be strengthened
  • It is recommended that a centralised climate data repository is created by the GLA to improve data access and ease of analysis, avoiding duplication or discrepancies
  • Rather than mapping climate impacts on their own, these should be analysed within the contact of existing and new low carbon policies.

Further details of the recommendations are below.

Notes to editors

Caroline is available for interview.

[1] Climate Change Risks for London: A review of evidence under 1.5 and different warming scenarios https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/climate_change_risks_for_l...

[2] Full text of the motion proposed by Caroline Russell and voted on by London Assembly: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/assembly/call-on-mayor-to-decla...

[3] Recommendations in full:

Recommendation 1
The GLA should prioritise and commission further research and analysis of future climate risk, with a focus on quantification based on the UKCP18 projections.
The gap analysis identified the suggested areas for further investigation and research. There should be a clear focus on the sectors identified in this report (housing, transport, emergency services, utilities and workplaces), alongside social infrastructure such as schools. From the literature review, heatwave impact on schools was widely reported within the media, but rarely supported with quantifiable evidence.

Recommendation 2
Additional research is needed in specific areas.
The IPCC special report clearly stated that there are less than 12 years left to avert dangerous climate change. The short timescale requires a focus on specific areas:

  • Implications of 1.5°C global temperature increase by early 2030s.
  • Assessing and updating the climate adaptation measures in the Mayor’s London Environment Strategy to reflect the risks identified in a 1.5°C warming scenario.
  • Assessment of Impact on carbon budgets of moving climate targets to early 2030s. 
  • Potential costs of moving targets to 2030s with reduced carbon budgets.

Recommendation 3
The role of the London Climate Change Partnership (LCCP) must be enhanced and its role in commissioning and advising the GLA must be strengthened.
Adapting to climate change is often seen as a secondary choice to mitigation. However, both should be done in parallel. Given the current global emissions trajectory and the momentum from previous emissions, London should expect to experience all of the impacts from climate change outlined in this report. Efforts to adapt must be stepped up. The LCCP must therefore be adequately resourced with a focus on the task of making London resilient to all climate risks through research and advice with the task of implementation down to the GLA. It is ideally placed to bridge the relationship between key sectors identified in this report, academia and decision makers.

Recommendation 4
It is recommended that a centralised climate data repository is created by the GLA to improve data access and ease of analysis, avoiding duplication or discrepancies.
The wide range of data held on current and future impacts makes analysis and policy development difficult. The Mayor’s London Datastore would be an ideal repository for the diversity and range of data.

Recommendation 5
Rather than mapping climate impacts on their own, these should be analysed within the context of existing and new low carbon policies. For example, an expansion of heat pumps with cooling capability may help with comfort in summer but put additional pressure on the grid during critical periods.

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