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Climate change to have disastrous impact on London by 2050, report warns

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1.25 million people living in London and £200bn worth of assets in the capital city may be severely impacted by climate change by the year 2050, according to a new report assessing the damage it is expected to wreak on urban environments.

The problems caused by rising global temperatures are predicted to include heatwaves, flooding, food and water shortages and blackouts by mid-century, if urgent action to curb greenhouse gases is not undertaken.

London lies in the ‘low-elevation coastal zone’ and faces risks of tidal flooding from the North Sea, fluvial flooding from the Thames and its tributaries and surface water flooding due to heavy rainfall, according to the report from C40 Cities.

C40 Cities was formed from a joint agreement between 90 major metropolises around the world to mitigate the impact of climate change on urban environments and was founded by former President Bill Clinton in 2006 with help from ex-London Mayor Ken Livingston.

The report also found that London was vulnerable to overheating and drought-like conditions and that hotter summers would increase the demand for mechanical cooling, increasing the capital’s energy demands further still.

“The United Kingdom’s nuclear, coal and oil- and gas-fired power stations are located along the coast and are vulnerable to tidal flooding, which can, in turn, impact London’s power supply,” the report found.

“Climate impacts put assets worth £200bn at risk, as well as 1.25 million people living along the Thames river in London and surrounding areas.”

The report goes on to praise London’s support of decentralised energy systems as a potential way to mitigate some of the issues caused by climate change. This includes the use of low carbon and renewable energy sources, as well as energy generated from waste.

The city has also developed a ‘Sustainable drainage action plan’ to improve city-wide drainage infrastructure to withstand heavy flooding and the draft London Environment Strategy and the draft London Plan focus on tackling extreme weather events.

Worldwide, 70 per cent of cities are already dealing with the effects of climate change, the report states, and nearly all are at risk.

More than 800 million city-dwellers will be vulnerable to sea-level rises and coastal flooding by 2050, including 30 million in European cities and 470 million will face power supplies at risk from rising seas.

Around 650 million people will be at risk of water shortages as a result of climate change, including in Athens and Madrid, and 1.6 billion people living in 970 cities, will be regularly exposed to extreme high temperatures. 2.5 billion people will be living in cities where national food supplies are threatened by climate change, including residents of Barcelona, Moscow and Oslo.

Mark Watts, executive director of C40 Cities said: “For decades, scientists have been warning of the risks that climate change will pose from increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, growing inequality and water, food and energy shortages.

“Now we have the clearest possible evidence of just what these impacts will mean for the citizens of the world’s cities. This is the future that nobody wants. Our research should serve as a wake-up call on just how urgently we need to be delivering bold climate action.”

Actions that cities around the world are taking to address climate change include planting 16 million trees and expanding green areas in Seoul, South Korea, and improving coastal defences in New York.

Last week, a study found that climate change could make it harder to eat healthily, with yields of vegetables falling by more than a third as temperatures rise and water becomes scarce. 

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