The United Kingdom is already facing devastating impacts from climate change. This report collates scientific projections of how climate impacts will play out up to 2050 and 2100, on low, medium and high emissions pathways.
The science shows that the UK will experience devastating climate impacts if it follows a high-emissions pathway. Without urgent action, the UK will see a 74% increase in the frequency of agricultural drought by 2050. The number of people exposed to river flooding in the UK is set to double. This combined with coastal erosion and fiercer weather will cause chaos for the UK’s economy, which stands to lose around 1.5% of GDP by 2050.
The faster the UK adopts low-carbon policies, the less the climate impacts cascade and the more manageable they become. Limiting temperature rise to 2°C will see the cost of climate impacts in the UK drop from 3.97% of its GDP in 2100 under a high emissions scenario to 1.63%.
Image © Steve Morgan / Greenpeace
Explore past, present and future scenarios for climate change in the UK. This section uses the most up to date climate science models to describe how climate change will affect temperature and precipitation trends in the UK. The research shows that on a high carbon pathway, temperatures in the UK could increase by as much as 1.4°C by 2050. On a low carbon pathway this drops to 0.8°C.
How have sea temperatures changed in the oceans surrounding the UK, and what do future climate trends mean for the vital ecosystems and livelihoods supported by the UK’s oceans? This section shows how surface sea temperatures in the UK could increase by 0.8°C by 2050 in a high carbon scenario, triggering a sharp rise in ocean acidification and reducing fish catch potential by as much as 21.8%.
A changing climate could have devastating effects on the UK’s coastal settlements, infrastructure and ecosystems. Rising sea levels, coastal erosion and changing storm patterns could see 1.2 million people exposed to devastating floods by 2050, if it follows a high carbon pathway. Following a low carbon pathway and investing in climate-resilient coastal infrastructure will help the UK avoid the worst coastal impacts.
Clean water is the foundation of all life. This section shows the increasing impacts from climate change threaten our access to water in the UK. Longer droughts, rising sea levels and more extreme weather will increase in the coming decades, choking off our most precious resource. In turn, that impacts agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure and tourism – causing massive economic costs. Only a low-carbon pathway can limit the damage.
Agriculture is a core element of the UK’s economy, contributing approximately 0.6% of the country’s annual GDP. This section shows the past, present and future impacts of climate change on the UK’s agriculture sector. It shows how climate change will impact crop productivity and put additional strain on the UK’s water resources, with droughts causing water demand to increase by up to 35.5% by 2050 – even in a low carbon scenario.
Forests are key to clean healthy air – supporting thriving ecosystems and economies. This section shows the past, present and future impacts of climate change on forests in the UK. If carbon levels remain high, huge losses in forest land will grow, damaging the UK’s agriculture, forestry and tourism industries. With urgent action, a low-carbon pathway will protect our forests from the worst impacts.
Cities in the UK face many threats from climate change. Unless we take urgent action, increasing extreme weather will batter urban communities across the country – damaging crucial infrastructure and causing massive economic losses. Increasing heatwaves and worsening air quality will harm urban residents’ health and even cost many their lives.
The health of our planet is essential to the health of people in the UK. Without urgent action, climate change will drive longer heatwaves, rising sea levels and deadly storms, harming the UK economy. Higher poverty means worse health impacts. But on a low-carbon pathway, the UK can improve health outcomes and save lives.
Rising temperatures and more severe heatwaves will affect the UK’s energy system and change the profile of its energy demand.
Heatwaves, droughts, fires, floods and brutal storms. The UK faces multiple threats from climate change. Across sectors – agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure, tourism and more – the costs to the economy could be massive. Without urgent action, the UK stands to lose 1.5% of its GDP by 2050. That rises to 3.97% by 2100. By investing in a low-carbon economy now, the UK can limit those losses to 1.28% by 2050.
This section explores the UK’s historic and current emissions as compared with global emissions, and the targets and commitments it has put in place. The UK is the seventeenth biggest emitter among the G20 countries. Urgent political action is necessary in the UK to secure a low carbon future.