'Adapt or die': England faces devastating floods like Germany, climate experts warn

13 October 2021, 06:11 | Updated: 13 October 2021, 09:42

England faces devastating floods like those in Germany during the summer, the Environment Agency has warned
England faces devastating floods like those in Germany during the summer, the Environment Agency has warned. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

England must "adapt or die" as climate change forces it to face increased floods, droughts, rising sea levels and more demand for water, the Environment Agency (EA) was warned.

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It has said the country could face devastating events like the recent Germany floods if it fails to adjust for changes to the environment.

Adaptation to adjust for inevitable effects from climate change will be just as important as cutting greenhouse gasses, the government institution reckons.

EA chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd warned: "The climate crisis is global, but its impacts are in your village, your shop, your home.

"Adaptation action needs to be integral to government, businesses and communities too and people will soon question why it isn't - especially when it is much cheaper to invest early in climate resilience than to live with the costs of inaction."

Read more: Gov announces huge spending in flood defences as storms batter UK

Read more: At least 153 dead and 1,000 missing in devastating floods that hit Germany and Belgium

Death toll from European flooding tops 180 as water recedes

She added: "While mitigation might save the planet, it is adaptation, preparing for climate shocks, that will save millions of lives.

"Choosing one over the other on the basis of a simple either/or calculation is like telling a bird it only needs one wing to fly."

In a report to the Government, the EA said England faces more and worse environmental incidents, like flooding, water shortages and pollution.

This could include events like the deadly floods in Germany during the summer, which left scores of people dead as homes were ripped apart by fast flowing water.

The EA complained that regulations are not set up for climate change and warned that traditional defences will not stop all floods and coastal erosion.

Meanwhile, it fears climate change increase pressure on England’s water environment, with population growth and climate change raising demand.

Water in the country already has issues with pollution and increased demand. Ultimately, this could make it harder to ensure clean and plentiful water.

Hotter, drier summers, rising sea level and developments are adding to the problem.

In London, the sea level could rise by up to 29cm by the 2050s, by about 45cm under a 2C temperature rise, or 78cm in a hotter world by the 2080s.

River flow patterns will also get more extreme, the report adds.

Water flows fast along street as Germany endures major flooding

The EA said it is working with the Government, wetlands and other habitats to improve spaces for wildlife, reduce flood risks, improve water quality and raise the amount of green spaces available for people.

Ms Howard Boyd added that although there was a focus on adaptation at Cop26, the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow, the issue was at risk of being "grievously undercooked" by the world's governments.

She said: "Significant climate impacts are inevitable. We can successfully tackle the climate emergency if we do the right things, but we are running out of time to implement effective adaptation measures.

"It is adapt or die. With the right approach we can be safer and more prosperous. So let's prepare, act and survive."