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Britain must adapt to ‘inevitable’ climate change, warns minister

September 14, 2010

From The Independent

Britons must radically change the way they live and work to adapt to being “stuck with unavoidable climate change” the Government will caution this week, as it unveils a dramatic vision of how society will be altered by floods, droughts and rising temperatures.

 The coalition will signal a major switch towards adapting to the impact of existing climate change, away from Labour’s heavy emphasis on cutting carbon emissions to reverse global temperature rises. Caroline Spelman, the Tory Secretary of State for the Environment, will use her first major speech on climate change since taking office to admit that the inevitable severe weather conditions  will present a “survival-of-the- fittest scenario”, with only those who have planned ahead able to thrive. Adapting to climate change will be “at the heart of our agenda”, she is expected to say.

In a series of dramatic artistic impressions, the Government illustrates how hospitals and fire stations should be built on hills to escape floods, skyscrapers designed to reflect the sun’s rays and tracts of land allowed to be reclaimed by the sea. At the same time, two major reports that will make the urgent scientific and economic case for action this week.

The Government’s stance sets the scene for a political battle with Labour, which insists that tackling a challenge on the scale of climate change requires state intervention and global co-operation, and cannot simply be left to the free market and private business. Critics will also seize on the absence of any new money for Ms Spelman’s plans, at a time when her department faces cuts of up to 40 per cent.

She will say: “It is vital that we carry on working to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions to stop the problem getting any worse – but we are already stuck with some unavoidable climate change. Because of this, we need to prepare for the best and worst cases which a changing climate will entail for our country.”

Her comments will be seen as an attempt to address the growing threat posed by rising temperatures without confronting climate change deniers. Ms Spelman’s plea for action will coincide on Thursday with the launch of the latest report from the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) of the Climate Change Committee, which advises the Government on preparing for the impacts of global warming. The report will warn: “If we wait, it will be too late.”

In a sign of the growing urgency of the need to act, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) will publish a report tomorrow into growing concern that firms have invested heavily in cutting carbon emissions and increasing energy efficiency, but far less has been spent on preparing for the worst effects of climate change. Ministers will caution that Britain’s economy is at risk if more is not done.

 From The Independent

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