Climate change is like 'World War Three'

Submitted by Charles Frost on Wed, 11/07/2007 - 18:01.

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Last Updated: 6:01pm GMT 05/11/2007

The battle to deal with climate change needs to be fought like "World War Three", the head of the Environment Agency has warned.

The agency's chief executive Lady Young said current measures to adapt to a changing climate were "too little, too slowly", and an huge effort was needed to address the crisis.


Hilary Benn, Environment Secretary, warned the agency's annual conference in London that global warming was a challenge to security, migration, politics and economics as well as the environment.

Lady Young told the conference that Britain would face more droughts, flooding, coastal erosion and loss of biodiversity as the climate altered.

She said measures such as improving the resilience of existing homes to flooding, not building on floodplains and improving water use efficiency were needed.

Rising sea levels and coastal erosion threatened £130 billion worth of property around the coast, with the elderly and poor communities most vulnerable, and seaside settlements must have help adapting, she said.

"This is World War Three - this is the biggest challenge to face the globe for many, many years. We need the sorts of concerted, fast, integrated and above all huge efforts that went into many actions in times of war.

"We're dealing with this as if it is peacetime, but the time for peace on climate change is gone - we need to be seeing this as a crisis and emergency," she said.

She also said much needed to be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - or adaptation measures would need to massively increase.

But she criticised the proposed Severn Barrage project - which could generate nearly 5 per cent of the UK's electricity through renewables at the cost of the internationally-important wildlife sites in the estuary - as looking for paper to write on and "reaching for the Mona Lisa".

Robert Watson, chief scientist of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was asked later whether Britain needed to spend 42 per cent of its budget on climate change as the United States did on the war in World War Two. He said tackling climate change required will but was possible at relatively little cost.

Mr Benn told the conference that there was no more important task for the world than dealing with climate change, for the benefit of future generations.

As the century progressed, people would be fighting not just for ideology but for water, and increasing numbers would be refugees of environmental catastrophes, he warned.

"This is not just an environmental challenge. It's also a security challenge, a migration challenge, a political challenge and an economic challenge as well," he said.

At home, lessons had to be learned from the summer's flooding such as dealing with surface water and confusion in who controls drainage more effectively.

And while climate change mitigation measures such as a post-Kyoto deal and renewable energy were crucial, the Environment Secretary also called on individuals to take "small steps" such as changing their lightbulbs and walking more, which would add up to a "powerful movement" for change.

Energy minister Malcolm Wicks insisted the Government was "fully committed" to back EU targets of 20 per cent energy from renewables by 2020, but said British targets were still being negotiated.

And he echoed Mr Benn's call for individuals to take personal action to adopt measures such as improving energy efficiency.



Climate change and property values

Thanks for posting this. Unfortunately, most people are distracted by wars V.II.27-V.II.39, going on around the world right now, to really think about V.III.

I was talking with my mortgage broker at Huntington this afternoon about how the bank and appraiser will value "Green" improvements we are making to the house - specifically, removing all lead and decayed wood and treating everything with no-VOC paints, wood sealants, caulk, etc... installing a green roof with skylights... installing a graywater system... removing all possible surface concrete and replacing with gravel and sandstone pavers... rainbarrels on all downspouts... wood/corn burning heat. There are not good comparables in sales of houses anywhere around here with these things, and in some ways they may be viewed as defects... especially the gravel drive, which may not be up to code. But Huntington sees this as a challenge, as they realize increasingly home buyers will demand all these things and more, so they had better figure out how to value such improvements.

On a larger scale, we've discussed my belief that as people become more aware of how bad things like lead and wood preservatives and glues and such are they will avoid houses with such defects, or reduce what they are willing to pay, which will cause a shift in the value of older and new houses, for different reasons, and will drive lots of new ways of building and renovating.

A more recent realization you've helped me make is that global warming will drive major changes in where people want to live, regionally, nationally and globally, which will all probably benefit NEO, if we get our act together. But, other regions will suffer greatly.

All such things will be highly disruptive to housing, insurance and finance markets in ways far greater than Katrina or the foreclosure scam... no, it will be like 1,000s of wildfires igniting all over the world, with some never going out.

Looks like actuary will be a challenging job for the future.

Disrupt IT