A new study by a group of UK architects, engineers and conservationists has found that, if current trends continue, the UK will become a “climate disaster zone” by the year 2031.
The findings were released by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London on Thursday, after a six-year research project that looked at the implications of climate change for Britain’s future.
The study found that the UK could be facing “unprecedented” weather conditions by the end of this century, and predicted that by 2035, the country would face “a high risk of drought, flood, ice, heatwave, storm and other extreme weather events” in the UK.
“The UK faces a high risk for catastrophic climate change by 2034, and the UK is one of the only developed countries where climate change is predicted to lead to the rapid expansion of extreme weather,” the report says.
“The UK has an estimated 1,300 million people and one of highest rates of urbanisation in Europe.”
The report says the UK’s climate is already changing, and is expected to become more extreme, with rising temperatures expected to increase flooding and the likelihood of more intense weather.
“Climate change will have dramatic impacts on the UK, with severe weather and floods potentially leading to greater numbers of people being displaced,” the RIBA report states.
“By 2035 there will be an average of 1.3 million people living in the country, with a higher than expected increase of more than 5 million people displaced.”
“By the year 2050, a large part of the UK population will have been relocated to cities such as London and Leeds, and by 2041 the number of people living outside of the capital city will have risen to more than 20 million people.”
The study also warns that the loss of land and land-use restrictions in urban areas will become more and more common.
“While some of these restrictions may have already been relaxed in the early part of this decade, they will increase further as climate change intensifies,” the study says.
“This could include restrictions on urbanisation, as well as the development of new cities, which could lead to increased use of urban areas by people, and thus increase the risk of extreme events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves.”
While the RIBCA study does not say when it expects to see more severe weather in the United Kingdom, it warns that changes to climate change are already happening.
“Changes in the Earth system are already causing climate change, and are already impacting the lives of many people across the UK,” the research says.
While the findings are alarming, they are not entirely new.
In 2012, a report by the British Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Mammals (RSP) warned that there was a “clear need” for building code improvements to address the “disproportionately high” number of vulnerable species, including the birds.
“These threats are the result of decades of development and over-exploitation of our natural habitat by humans, in order to generate profit, and to sustain the global industrial and economic dominance of the dominant species of our planet,” the RSP report said.
The RSP report was published in May this year, just days after a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that, globally, human populations are on the brink of a population collapse.
“We are on track to see the biggest decline in the world’s populations in less than 50 years,” the UNODC report said, adding that this was the result “of overconsumption, under-consumption and overuse of natural resources”.
“This is not a question of whether the world will become too small to feed itself, but whether there will become so small that we will be forced to resort to new forms of resource extraction to keep the population growth rate going,” the RSP said.
“It is clear that a significant part of our population is already suffering from an unsustainable pattern of consumption.”