Warning over climate change in South EastGroups forecast floods and water shortages

26 February 2008

A flooded street with houses

Houses damaged by flooding

Climate change could have a dramatic impact on every area of life in the South East of England from work to health, leisure, gardening, holidays and farming, a booklet published today warned.

Thousands of businesses could be hit by flooding, while hot summers will mean buckled rail tracks causing problems for commuters and soaring temperatures in offices - with rising fuel prices making air conditioning unfeasible.

The higher temperatures expected in the South East could lead to an increase in the death rate and more instances of food poisoning, the Our Changing Climate, Our Changing Lives - The South East booklet said.

Sports

Farmers might have to change from traditional crops, including raspberries and gooseberries to sunflowers, soya, olives and figs as warming temperatures and hotter, drier summers take hold.

And apple orchards grown for cider will struggle, but the wine industry in the South East could be flourishing by mid century, the report by the government-funded Tomorrow's England coalition said.

The coalition of groups, including the Woodland Trust, the Women's Institute, National Trust and WWF-UK, said sports including cricket at Lords, golf, fishing and horseracing could be affected by drier weather while wetter winters could halt matches at the South East's football grounds.

Flooding

Heritage sites including the region's Martello Towers and stately homes could be damaged by flooding and rising sea levels, while gardeners could be forced to learn how to grow more exotic, drought resistant plants.

For the South East's nature, things don't look good if measures aren't taken now to lessen the impacts of climate change, the booklet warned.

Early springs will cause problems for much-loved flowers such as the bluebell which will have less time to gather the energy needed from the sun before trees overhead begin to leaf, while trees such as the beech will themselves be at risk from the warmer, drier weather.

Animals at risk

And animals such as the otter and the hedgehog are at risk, with predictions the latter could disappear altogether from the South East's gardens and countryside by 2025 as a result of scarcity of slugs because of the dry weather, as well as disrupted hibernation and rising pollution.

And people will face more water shortages and permanent hosepipe bans.

Colin Butfield, head of campaigns at WWF-UK said: 'An increase in average global temperatures of more than 2C will have catastrophic results for our planet.

'Closer to home, the way we travel to work, the sports we play, our health and our environment could all be affected by shifting weather patterns.'

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