Climate change adaption
Climate change adaptation means preparing and adjusting for the current and predicted effects of the changing climate.
All communities and ecosystems globally will need to adapt at some level to cope with the challenges posed by the changing climate. UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change publishes a climate change risk report every five years which provides information on the issues that the country is likely to face.
It is important to think about our exposure to climate change risks in how we look after our homes, businesses, and local countryside. We are fortunate in Chesterfield that we are not directly exposed to the risks that come from rising sea-levels, but we can expect to see an increase in the number and severity of droughts, floods, gales, and heatwaves. We also need to recognise that we will be exposed to indirect effects like changes in availability and cost of some foods, goods, and services as other world regions face more extreme challenges than us. At current rates of change, we can expect these effects to get more severe over the coming decades.
Find out more about the UK’s exposure to climate risks.
You can read the latest research behind Climate Adaptation from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
What can we do?
We need to build resilience into our buildings and open spaces to reduce our vulnerability to the above climate risks. Adaptation measures are less well documented in the UK, but we can learn from communities around the world who have found ways to manage the extreme weather conditions that they are already experiencing. United Nations Environment programme (UNEP) has supported over 70 climate change adaptation projects in over 50 countries.
Below we have listed some things you can do now to prepare for and live with the impacts of climate change. Where helpful, we have included links to international information as well as that supplied by UK agencies. Please note these are not intended to be substitutes for advice in emergency situations.
To handle droughts, we need to use water more efficiently, so we don’t waste what we have. Many systems already exist to save water, and we can learn from countries which are more arid than ours. Some ideas include:
Reduce overall water consumption where possible
- Take short showers instead of baths
- Turn off taps while brushing your teeth
- Use washing machines and dishwashers only when at full load
- Reuse water used for cooking or washing dishes to water plants
- Consider swapping to more water-efficient appliances like dual-flush toilets
Check your plumbing regularly to prevent and fix leaks
A leaky toilet, commonly undetected, could waste up to 400 litres of water per day. You can find out how to detect toilet and other leaks here. Also, the water mains network loses a significant amount of water every day to leakage. If you see leaks, report them to your water company.
Use water saving measures
Many water suppliers offer water-saving devices, like tap aerators and cistern bags, for free or subsidised. These devices can help reduce your bills at the same time.
Use a water butt to store water for the garden or washing the car
If every house in Chesterfield Borough was using a full-size water butt, we would be able to store about an hour and a quarter’s worth of average flow from the river Rother. There is more information on using rainwater for gardening on the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) website and more information available online about general rainwater management. Although this can be expensive, you could consider implementing rainwater storage devices for flushing toilets.
Lose the hose
Hoses are a well-known inefficient use of water. If you want to water the garden, why not look at drip irrigation, or plant more drought tolerant plants? To increase the water retention capacity of your soil, add more organic material as detailed in this helpful guide. The RHS has produced a guide on how to manage garden spaces in a changing climate.
It is important to remember there is a lot of water used in the production of food and clothes. By reducing food waste and buying second-hand, you can indirectly conserve water and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.
Find out more ways you can save water.
Find out more about UK’s domestic water use.
You can check whether you’re in an area that is at risk of flooding on the Government’s flood warning information service website. It is good to check this even if you’re a long way from a watercourse, because it includes flooding from both surface water, and rivers.
Things you can do to reduce the risk of flooding include:
Flood-proof your home
A wide range of building-level flood defences are now available. These include sealable air bricks and systems designed to seal doorways and other potential entry points for water. The HomeOwners Alliance have developed a guide for flood-proofing homes.
Use permeable paving or even better, avoid paving your garden
Surfaces which do not allow rain to soak into the ground increase the amount of runoff and increase the risk of flash flooding. Consider grass reinforcement grid to increase the strength of a grass if needed.
Drainage isn’t always the best response to flooding, but it has been the standard response for many years.
Blocked drains can lead to unpredictable consequences in particularly heavy rainfall. You can report blocked drains using the form on the Derbyshire County Council website.
Tree canopies reduce the rate at which water drains from the land, so they can slow the effects of intense rain. Trees have also been planted for many years to cope with areas with a high water-table. If you can’t plant trees, you could try building a rain garden. There are guides on how to do this available from the RHS, and raingardens.info.
Water butts are great for storing water during a drought or hosepipe ban, but they can also store a proportion of heavy rain. This reduces the amount of water drains have to cope with. If there’s a long period of wet weather, you can leave the tap open slightly to allow the butt to drain which gives drainage systems more time to cope with the excess.
Bare soil is particularly at risk of eroding during floods. We can alter land management practices to store more water, and reduce risk of soil erosion, as well as slowing runoff and reducing the risk of severe floods. If you have a lawn, consider mowing less frequently, which will also reduce the impact of droughts on the grass. Increasing the amount of vegetation or mulch between plants has a similar effect. Further information on reducing the effect of flooding is available from the RHS.
If you are putting in a new shed or garden office, why not consider installing a green roof? There’s a guide on how to do it published by Slow the Flow. Green roofs can also help provide additional wildlife habitat and manage high temperatures in the structure during heatwaves. Please seek professional advice from a structural engineer or roofing contractor first.
We are used to gales in the UK, but we may see an increase in frequency and intensity of storms. Other countries regularly experience much worse conditions than we see here and have produced good guidance on how to prepare:
Keep on top of property maintenance
Since we expect the frequency of high winds to increase, you may find that you need to act more promptly on repairs than you have in the past. The HomeOwners Alliance has developed a guide for house maintenance.
Tree pests and diseases
Increases in droughts and the spread of a range of tree pests and diseases is likely to result in large numbers of standing dead trees over the coming years. Dead or dying trees are particularly vulnerable to gales, and you may find that they need to be felled for safety reasons. The Government have developed a guide on tree health.
Secure loose objects
High winds frequently cause damage by flinging debris and garden objects around. This may be something as simple as a bin, sandpit lid, or fence panel. While you might not need to act on this straight away, it may have an impact on how you choose to make any changes to your garden going forward.
Over the coming years, we can expect more frequent intense heatwaves than we are used to. These can have a severe impact on health, particularly in the very young and in the elderly.
Cooling methods can be categorised as: passive or active (additional energy is required).
As a general principle, you should only look at active solutions if passive solutions are not possible, and if you are powering them with green electricity.
This includes ventilation, shade, and evaporative cooling – where no or only energy from the sun or wind is involved. This can be designed into new buildings or retrofitted to existing structures. Alternatively, trees, shrubs, and green walls or roofs can also provide a number of these functions. Planting for shade may become more important as the climate changes.
This includes air conditioning and fans, which require energy to run. It is already widespread among offices and shops in the UK, but may become more attractive as summer temperatures rise. But, these technologies can lead to greenhouse emissions if the electricity used to run the unit is not green or due to leaking refrigerants.
Wildlife everywhere is in decline. This is caused by a combination of climate change, pollution, habitat loss, over exploitation, and harsh chemicals use in agriculture. We all depend on the natural world for our health and wellbeing, and we should all be doing what we can to help the natural world. Key actions include:
Manage your space
Managing your own space and garden in an environmentally friendly way. This may be the introduction of plant species which benefit wildlife, avoiding pesticide and herbicide use, installing of nesting or roosting space, or a digging a pond.
We need to make sure that wildlife can access existing and new habitat, joining habitat to make wider networks is valuable and may be as simple as leaving small areas or verges to grow wild for part of the year. You can find ideas of how to promote wildlife in your garden from RHS.
Avoid using peat-based composts.
These result in habitat loss from bogs where they are sourced, and emit carbon, which would otherwise have been stored indefinitely.
Locally, we are likely to lose a number of large ash trees (Hymenoscyphus Fraxineus) to die-back. We should be thinking about what could replace these trees in the landscape (sycamore is often a good candidate) to make sure that we don’t lose habitats.
There are plenty of environmental organisations which can offer detailed advice on this, including the wildlife trust, woodland trust, and RSPB.