As a planet we cannot deny it any longer, climate change is not coming, it’s already here. Just look at the horrific weather the UK has suffered all winter. Storm after storm after storm, washing away whole stretches of coastline, flooding thousands of homes, hundreds of thousands of home without power throughout the winter. Lives have been lost and billions of pounds worth of damage has been done. It is going to take years for the UK to rebuild and repair what it has lost. For some, homes will be demolished and lives re-sited. It has been a truly horrible set of events. And yet, the UK is not alone when it comes to extreme weather this winter.
The US eastern seaboard has been battered time and again this winter by deadly winter storms, far more than the usual amount. Our TV hasn’t really focused on it all that much, what with our own crisis to cover. But when you do find news coverage of it, they are usually reporting snow in feet rather than inches, temperatures close to Arctic levels, deaths in the dozens and transport chaos.
The extremes continue. Australia only seems to get hotter each year and Eastern Europe gets more and more snow each year. Back on our shores, the weather only seems to come in extremes. If it rains it rains harder and greater than ever before. When it’s hot there are temperature record under threat. It was only last year we were under hosepipe bans! When the wind blows it hurricane strength and when the sea is rough it more of a storm surge than a bit of spray. We need to face facts, climate change is very real, it’s happening right now, and the UK needs to have a serious rethink about it’s whole infrastructure.
It’s far easier to say that something needs doing, than to actually get it done. But a failure to improve our buildings, both residential and commercial, transport and energy infrastructure, will only lead to more scenes like we saw at Christmas, without power and assistance at what was supposed to be the most special time of year. Worse than that, life will be in danger. This country’s infrastructure is frankly quite poor in places and is in no state to combat future extreme climate conditions. And lets be honest with ourselves, I think we all know how severe our weather has become over the last few years. You only need to look back the previous four winters, or the other summers where we have been floating rather than sunbathing. This is something far from new. Yet very little is being done to reinforce the UK against these extremes.
We need to start by putting some serious money into flood defences. Defences that at first might seem over the top, but will protect the UK from growing extremes. The Government needs to reverse the cuts its implementing at the Environment Agency for a start, that’s not going to help anyone. Budget or no budget, if flood defences are neglected, the cost of clean ups and repairs will cost far more than the savings by these cuts.
Then there is the fabric of our buildings themselves. This country has fallen into a terrible habit of throwing up buildings as quick as possible and not building them to be particularly strong. I know this myself as I lived in a new build property before I moved out and I could hear someone going to the loo in the night, so thin was the structure! Fact is the weaker a building is built the more susceptible it is to damage from strong winds and general wear and tear from the weather. What ever happened to building homes and buildings to last? I would call on Government to find a way to force builders and property developers to look into new ways to build their projects in an efficient way, but to also withstand more extreme weather conditions. Do what they have to, test to ridiculous lengths and extremes. Do whatever is necessary. When people’s lives and homes are at risk, nothing is too much.
Common sense approaches also need to be used. Stop building on flood plains. They’re called flood plains for a reason, and no mater how well you think homes are built, water will try and find it’s way in. Floods will get bigger over time and eventually overcome the defences built for it. Stop building on flood plains and look at other sites to develop.
The smaller things also matter. Even down to the windows and doors. If builders have to build in previously flooded areas, then at the very least don’t use cheap and cheerful windows and doors. Source higher quality ones which have a proven water resistance accreditation. At least give the homeowner a chance to move their belonging elsewhere to safety. One of the biggest causes of home renovation issues is down to cheaply and poorly built building fabrics. I am a firm believer that if something is built to a high quality in the first place, it will last longer and perform better.
Climate change is now here and is happening right in front of us. If we do not do something about it right now, we can say goodbye to more of our coastline and low lying areas. Flooding will get worse, winds will get stronger and our infrastructure will pay a heavy price. Build to last, build to protect, build to be sustainable, then we might give ourselves a fighting chance.