Major new research into the risks of climate change to the UK predicts that, without action, by the second half of this century warmer temperatures in the summer could cost businesses £15 billion in staff absenteeism a year.
The study, which has been described as ground-breaking, was published today by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(Defra). It shows that as well as communities, business
face major challenges due to the impacts of climate change
over the course of the next 70 years.
Currently, the cost of staff days lost due to workplace overheating are estimated to be £77 million annually. But the report predicts those costs could balloon to £5.3 billion by the 2050s and as much as £15.2 billion by the 2080s, unless action is taken to mitigate the problem.
It shows that in London, the number of days in an average year when temperatures rise above 26 degrees C could increase from 18 days to between 27-121 days by the 2080s – with important implications for business continuity in the capital. Cost of flooding to business continuity
The impacts of flooding are potentially devastating too. The report predicts that, without mitigating action, the average annual costs to businesses from disruption due to flooding could reach £96 million by the 2080s, compared to just £20 million today.
The cost of flooding to buildings and properties in England and Wales, meanwhile, could increase more than 11-fold over the next 70 years – from £1.2 billion to £12 billion. Water shortages
And without action to improve water resources, the report warns of potential major supply shortages by the 2050s in parts of the north, south and east of England – with the greatest challenge in the Thames River basin. In the south east, there is a possibility that the number of sites where sustainable industrial abstraction can take place, could shrink by between 29 per cent and 83 per cent by the 2050s.
But the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) also shows that the UK is set to be amongst the best prepared nations for dealing with the effects of climate change, whilst it shows the upside for some business sectors could be significant. Boost to tourism sector
Warmer temperatures, for example, could see domestic and international tourists spending between £11.3 billion and £28.9 billion by the 2080s, compared to less than £1 billion today – with obvious benefits to the UK’s hospitality and tourism
Launching the report, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, said: "This world class research provides the most comprehensive case yet on why we need to take action to adapt the UK and our economy to the impacts of climate change. It shows what life could be like if we stopped our preparations now, and the consequences such a decision would mean for our economic stability.
"The Climate Change Risk Assessment will be vital in helping us to understand what we need to do to stop these threats becoming a reality. In doing so there is also great potential for growth through UK firms developing innovative products and services tailored to meet the global climate challenge."Future policies
The research deliberately does not take into consideration future policies
and plans when making its predictions, so that Government and business can have a robust baseline to measure action against. Building on the 2009 UK Climate Projections, the CCRA highlights 100 top challenges to the UK and the economy of a changing climate over the coming century. Its aim is to galvanise business, communities and local and national government to take action.
For example, it shows how unprepared the financial
services sector is to climate change risk – despite being vulnerable to it both operationally and, indirectly, through risks associated with investment performance and lending portfolios. It points to how Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had a "significant 'ripple’ effect on the performance of UK investment funds".
"Without an effective plan to prepare for the risks from climate change the country may sleepwalk into disaster," Lord John Krebs, chair of the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change. "This report represents an important first step in the process and demonstrates why the UK needs to take action to adapt now."
National Adaptation Programme
Published alongside a Government report showing the current and future policies already in place to deal with climate change, today’s research will be used as a basis to develop a National Adaptation Programme (NAP), Defra said. The NAP will set out timescales for the actions Government will take to meet the challenges of climate change.
Like this story? Please subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter at the top of the page for more content like this.