Around the world, cities endeavour to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while adapting to the threats – and opportunities – presented by climate change. It’s no easy task, but the first step is to make a plan outlining how to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, and help limit the world’s mean temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
About 74% of Europe’s population lives in cities, and urban settlements account for 60-80% of carbon emissions – so it makes sense to plan at an urban level. Working to meet carbon reduction targets can also reduce local pollution and increase energy efficiency – which benefits both businesses and residents.
But it’s just as important for cities to adapt to climate change – even if the human race were to cut emissions entirely, we would still be facing the extreme effects of climate change for decades to come, because of the increased carbon input that has already taken place since the industrial revolution.
In the most comprehensive survey to date, we collaborated with 30 researchers across Europe to investigate the availability and content of local climate plans for 885 European cities, across all 28 EU member states. The inventory provides a big-picture overview of where EU cities stand, in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Continue reading →
UK peatlands are wild, often remote places. These aren’t the fields and farms that many town dwellers associate with the British countryside, rather areas of bog and mire that may be seldom visited except, perhaps, by the committed enthusiast. Not all look as attractive as they might — all too often peat bogs have suffered extensive damage, either through extraction of material for gardening products or attempts to drain the land for agricultural purposes. But these are important places, providing not only iconic and beautiful habitats for other species, but also vital resources for our own survival.
What have peat bogs got to offer? Our supplies of clean drinking water depend on rainfall in peatlands and they can also be important in mitigating flooding , slowing down the flow of water on its way to urban areas. Highly specialised species that are often rare, threatened or declining live, feed and breed in peatland habitats. From the bog hoverfly to the golden plover and greenshank, many species make their home here.
On this planet humans are radically changing the land, air and water. In many cases this is unavoidable. All species have some degree of impact on the environment in which they live, but in the case of humans it is magnitudes greater. We are now the force driving environmental systems which has led to a new geological epoch — the Anthropocene.
During the preceding geological period (the Holocene) the planet’s climate was getting cooler but since human intervention it’s heating up at a faster rate than we have ever experienced before. We are releasing enough greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere that it is intensifying the hydrological cycle, leading to more rainfall in some areas, and making others dryer. But it’s not only the climate we’re changing. Humans are moving around more sediment (silt, sand, gravel etc) than all the rivers, ice sheets and desert winds in the world combined. We are a geological force to be reckoned with. Continue reading →
Floods are often presented as human interest stories of stranded grannies and rescued pets, but their impact on hidden infrastructure is just as severe. In late 2015 for instance, a number of power systems and phone exchanges were inundated in Leeds and York which cut off thousands of homes, businesses (who were unable to process card payments), bank machines and even police and hospital services on Tyneside, 100 miles away.
But it’s not just floods and it’s not just phone lines. In fact, a major new peer-reviewed report highlights how, across the UK, the country’s infrastructure – services such as energy, transport and sanitation that are essential for modern society – is already experiencing significant impacts from severe weather related to climate change.
Unchecked, the projected increases in flooding will lead to more disruption of infrastructure. Furthermore, gradual changes in our climate, such as a rise in average temperatures, will reduce capacity and increase running costs.