Global heating hits home

25 February 2020
Comments 6
Category Blog, Comment, FrontPage
25 February 2020, Comments 6

Andy Atkins, CEO of A Rocha UK, looks at a new report on the impact of global heating on our homes.

February’s unusually intense rainfall – 141% of the month’s average rainfall had fallen by mid month – has led to widespread flooding.  This has damaged thousands of homes and caused trauma and loss to tens of thousands of people. The new Minister of the Environment George Eustace blamed climate change.  It looks like global heating is hitting home and homes.

Tragically, there is more to come in the years ahead, and potentially the weeks and months ahead too. A new study, published in February, points to a range of emerging threats to UK homes from global heating, but it also gives hope. Written by scientists from The Climate Coalition, of which A Rocha UK is a member, Home Truths, draws on the latest data from the UK’s leading climate research centres. You can download it here.  

The report warns not just of increased surface and river flooding, but coastal flooding too as sea levels rise. Average sea levels around Britain have already risen 17cm since the early 1900s. 1.8 million people’s homes are currently estimated to be at significant risk of one or other source of inundation. This figure could rise to 2.6 million by 2040 at the current rate of global heating.

Then there is heat stress on the people in the houses: more intense and frequent heat waves are killing people, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. The summer 2019 heat waves are estimated by Public Health England to have led to almost 900 ’excess deaths’ from heat stress in England alone. Heat and drought also damages buildings not just people, drying out clay subsoils especially and triggering subsidence. 

Not only does it cost householders dear to fix flood or subsidence damage to their homes, but their insurance premiums also rise once they have suffered the first hit on their homes.  

There are solutions and the Climate Coalition is calling for them to be rolled out much faster. Among other measures, we need a radical switch away from building on flood plains. We need housing design standards which keep homes naturally cooler in searing summers, and reduces the need for energy-guzzling air conditioning. 

Significantly, for a nature conservation organisation like A Rocha UK, the research demonstrates the benefits of working with nature to combat climate impacts on our homes and communities. We can restore green space in towns and cities, to better absorb rainfall and reduce runoff. We can restore our upland peat moors to slow the discharge of rainfall to populated valleys below. We can plant more trees in urban areas to combat the ‘heat island’ effect. And all this would be good for wildlife too.   

Churches have been providing practical and pastoral support to flood victims. This is absolutely right and part of the Church’s mission. So too is raising our collective voice. This year is a perfect time for us to do so – with the UK government hosting the UN climate talks (COP26) in November.

Let’s urge our government to bring in policies now to protect people and their homes from global heating and to cut the UK’s emissions faster. The UK is off track to meet its own emissions targets. Getting on track will give it greater influence in persuading other countries to agree the bolder emissions cuts we all need, at COP 26.

6 responses on “Global heating hits home

  1. Jeremy Hallett says:

    Britain’s Industrial Revolution started globalisation which along with population growth and aspirations for all to share our standard of living is causing the world’s climate crisis.

    As we have a nice life because of our head start we need to set an example of acting now to reduce consumption of all items even if they are renewable as they still have a cost and starting to act before COP 26 will do this.

  2. Gordon Lascelles says:

    I agree totally with all that is said above. In addition, new housing is very concentrated with very little green space. Gardens are replaced by extensions, patios and brick weave drives. Even more should be done with the creation of the water run-off ponds and lakes being created to hold the excess rain. Some are being installed but not enough. Where they exist they need to become used for nature too, although they can’t be choked with plant life. Every new house should reach the highest spec for heat efficiency etc. This is a golden opportunity not to be missed.

  3. David Swan says:

    It is a pity to say the least, that humans only learn by one way, the hard one. Yes more trees should be planted and more green spaces provided. More thought must be made to the design of housing estates to ensure this is done. Provision must also be made for provision of meeting places such as “village halls” where people can meet and have social gatherings hopefully to resolve some of the problems of urban living. Better public transport should also be provided to discourage the use of private car. Where possible insulation should be provided to retain heat during the cold periods and ventilation to ensure a cool home during a heat wave.

  4. Gordon Lascelles says:

    Total agreement here!!

  5. Patrick Coghlan says:

    When we bought our current home in 2013 there was practically no insulation. A foot of roof + cavity wall insulation later, it is warm in winter and easily kept cool in summer. Although we got a grant for this we would have been happy to pay. Our motivation is caring for God’s earth. But it has also saved us money. As well as higher standards for new homes we need to encourage everybody to get their homes up to high standards as we all seek to reduce on carbon footprint by 8% annually.
    Together with another couple we are seeking to create a local Climate forum – involving churches, schools, local political parties and other community groups so that we can encourage one another to be more active, both personally and as a community. A church in another part of Sheffield is organising an open meeting in their local library.

  6. James Barling says:

    We need to understand the nature of the beast, which is consumerism. I know it is blindingly obvious, but it seems to be ignored that if we stop buying the “stuff” we don’t need, then it will stop being produced, stop being transported, stop damaging extraction processes and reduce energy consumption. We are told the unless we buy all this “stuff” we will be less attractive, less sexy, less loved. This is part of the unholy trinity of capitalism, consumerism and neoliberalism. We have been told that spirituality is no longer necessary, and here is the “stuff” to fill the hole that is left in our lives, but that only lasts five minutes, so we need ever more “stuff” to fill the ever increasing hole. Our education system is geared towards making us compliant consumers, so that we have to go to work to buy “stuff” so that other people have to work to make “stuff” so that they can buy “stuff”. All the time, making a few people so rich that they believe that they are fire and storm proof, whilst the rest of us a re expendable foot soldiers. One of the first things is to love yourself as you are, be content with how you look, dress etc naturally. You don’t need all the external “stuff” to be beautiful, it is what is inside you that is important. Ugliness starts from within yourself. Spirituality of necessity needs a focus and for me it is about relationships- with other people, with the natural world and with God, however you may wish to define God.