What's in store for the UK if we see a 4C rise in temperature?

From water shortages and increased risk of subsidence in homes to more cases of asthma and even changes in the fabrics we wear, climate change is set to alter every area of our lives in the future in the UK.

Many of the changes will not be for some decades - perhaps not even until children born today are retired - but others, such as shifts in the seasons and our wildlife, are already happening. And the measures we take to combat rising greenhouse gases and limit the changes brought on by rising temperatures will have impacts on our way of life too.

The UK Climate Impacts Programme's (UKCIP) most recent predictions for how our climate will alter earlier this year said the South East of England could see increases in summer temperatures of between 2C and 6C by the 2080s.

Summer rainfall is likely to decrease by more than a fifth (22 per cent) in the South East and Yorkshire and Humber, while winter rain could increase by 16 per cent in the North West. More rain is likely to fall on the wettest days, leading to a higher risk of flooding, the climate projections study led by scientists from the Met Office Hadley Centre revealed.

London's sea levels could rise by 36cm (14 inches), while the capital could also be hit by heatwaves in which summer temperatures would regularly top 40C (104F), the study shows.

More recently, data from the Met Office suggests the UK could see temperatures warm by 4C within 50 years if steps are not taken to cut the greenhouse gases linked with climate change.

A 4C world, which the Government's chief scientist Prof John Beddington warned would be "disastrous", would lead to increased water shortages, mass migration, food shortages and conflict across the world - with direct impacts on the UK including more extreme sea level rises, storm surges and heatwaves.

The Government's Act on C02 campaign warns there are many consequences of rising temperatures, including impacts on health such as more asthma as warmer, wetter winters lead to more mould growing in homes, while there could be more cases of food poisoning in hotter temperatures and as many as 2,000 more cataract cases each year by 2050.

Droughts could cause subsidence and water shortages, while hot weather could lead to power failures as electricity cables underperform at high temperatures. Heatwaves could also disrupt travel as roads warp, rails buckle and passengers suffer heat exhaustion.

Warm climate species such as olive trees are already for sale in garden centres, while daffodils are flowering 16 days earlier, but many native species of trees, plants and animals will be under threat as temperatures rise. And even our fashions could change, with less call for winter coats and more use of materials made from fast growing bamboo to replace cotton, which will become more expensive as water shortages make it harder to grow.

In the UK, efforts will be needed to adapt to rising temperatures, including "greening and blue-ing" cities such as London, bringing in more trees, parks and water such as fountains to cool urban areas and make them more pleasant in the heat that is expected, and letting rivers run more naturally to reduce flood risk.

As far as cutting emissions goes, the Government has outlined wide ranging measures to transform the UK to a low carbon economy. In the future, the country's landscapes - and seascapes - are likely to have far more wind turbines, but also more trees as part of efforts to reduce emissions.

Homes could see more efficient boilers, smart meters to monitor energy, better insulation and more use of renewable technologies such as solar panels and ground source heat pumps, while cities could have more green roofs and walls to reduce the need for air conditioning.

Major - and controversial - schemes such as a 10-mile tidal barrage across the Severn estuary and new nuclear plants could get the go-ahead, while anaerobic digestion plants could create power from domestic and agricultural waste.

Half a million more children could be trained to ride bikes safely and more low carbon buses and electric cars would be on our roads under the plans.

Efforts will not just be needed by Government, however, with businesses and the public having to play their part in the move to a low carbon economy.

Tottenham Hotspur football club is one of those already making efforts to cut its carbon footprint, with measures ranging from low energy floodlights at White Hart Lane to washing the players' kit at a low temperature, and plans for a new "green" stadium with features such as onsite renewable power and rainwater collected for use in flushing the toilets.

Of course, the move to a low carbon world comes at a cost - most obviously on rising energy prices for consumers - but the Government believes the costs of dealing with uncontrolled climate change would be much greater, and there are opportunities, such as green jobs and manufacturing, in a low carbon world.

Related stories:
Copenhagen: is there hope for a new deal? 
One third of energy bills set to be green 'subsidies' 
London 2012 aims for greener Olympic games 
Technology and climate change 
E&T video: monitoring climate change at the Met Office

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