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UK’s worst case scenario climate incidents are ‘already happening’

The climate crisis will "destroy the basis of modern society", the Environment Agency's chief executive warned
The Environment Agency has responded to floods it considered 'reasonable worst case scenario' in recent years. "flood - Road Closed" by gothicnexus is licensed under CC BY 2.0

More extreme weather and flooding is on the way as the UK is already seeing “reasonable worst case scenarios” play out, according to a leading climate politician, who warned the climate crisis will kill more people than most wars have.

Calling for the Government to put the same effort into tackling the climate emergency as it has for Covid-19, Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said predictions for the effects of global heating on the UK should not be mistaken for “science fiction”.

High sea levels will “take out most of the world’s cities,” he said, displacing millions of people and rendering large areas of land uninhabitable.

Drought, flooding, wildfires and heatwaves will cause higher death tallies than war, he added, and will trigger ecosystem collapse.

Speaking at the Association of British Insurers annual conference, Bevan warned the climate crisis will ultimately “destroy the basis of the modern economy and modern society”.

The warnings came as the Met office issued a “danger to life” torrential rain warning for swathes of the UK, with strong winds and up to four inches of rain expected in some areas over the next two days.

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The “reasonable worst case” scenarios for flood emergencies in the UK, such as flooding in Wales last February, have “actually happened” in recent years, he said, urging authorities to act faster than the climate. 

The Environment Agency made a 2015 pledge to protect 300,000 homes from flooding, and will manage the Government’s £5.2 billion investment in flood and coastal defences in preparation for “coastal change” which could otherwise leave towns and cities under water.

The climate crisis is the “unseen pandemic,” Bevan told the insurers, guaranteed to kill more people than Covid-19 if left unchecked.

“We will get the climate we work for,” the chief executive added, urging ministers to use November’s environmental conference COP26 as an opportunity to take bold action alongside other world leaders.

He wants experts to focus on both adaptation – preparing communities for the effects of the climate emergency – and cutting carbon emissions to reduce the effects of the crisis in years to come.