Climate Change and Flooding in the UK

Allerton Bywater, West Yorkshire.        (Duncan Cuthbertson/

Climate change is resulting in an increasing number and intensity of devastating storms, droughts and fires, as well as melting polar caps and glaciers creating rising sea levels and causing our rivers to flood and burst their banks. The deliberate destruction of trees, woodlands, forests and other fragile, essential, water-conserving ecosystems also contribute to risks of our fresh water supplies being depleted, poisoned or contaminated.

Flooding also results from deliberate cuts to flood defences; poor government choices, failures and policy errors; and particularly deliberate political policies that support the continued destructive activities of those responsible for driving the climate emergency. These, together with the world’s multiple humanitarian crises, are all compounding the impacts of the climate crisis, which is now putting us all at an unprecedented risk to our health, our own and our children’s future.

The health impacts of the climate crisis, water pollution, flooding, droughts and water shortages, and their impacts on the environment and ecology, are devastating for any of us, but are especially challenging for disabled people, both young and old. This group of people – most of whom are already contending with austerity, aid and benefits cuts, coronavirus, etc – are at risk of being hit first and hardest by flooding and its impacts. For example, when flood waters rise, the able-bodied and physically healthy can more easily flee to safety or fight off any resulting infections.

To add to the impacts of the growing climate crisis, of flooding, droughts, fires, crop failures and the resulting environmental, ecological and humanitarian emergencies, the world’s greed-blinded leaders, governments and profit-driven, planet-destroying, power-corrupting corporations, fossil fuel industry and the, banking and the other sectors and industries that are driving the climate crisis are also increasingly escalating and compounding the impacts and risks.

For example, here in the UK, subsidised and supported by the UK Government, Fracking, HS2, construction sector, mining and other profiteering industrial processes are decimating ancient woodlands and vital, fragile, ecosystems as well as using up, privatising, commodifying and contaminating and depleting our precious, finite reserves of fresh water. A third of the world’s groundwater reserves are now in distress, according to NASA and it is estimated that by 2050 there will be a 22% shortfall in the water needed because of the climate emergency.

In preparation for this scenario, the rich are already escalating their privatisation and profiteering and preparing for wars over food and water, oblivious of the fact that al of life is connected and when we run out of water and the oceans rise and die they rise and die for them too. A Dec 2020 article in Bloomberg highlighted that ‘Water joined gold, oil and other commodities traded on Wall Street, highlighting worries that the life-sustaining natural resource may become scarce across more of the world.’

Also, Climate Central have produced an interactive COASTAL RISK SCREENING TOOL to show lands near London that are projected to be below the annual flood level by 2050. This includes some of the impacts to health from rising sea levels leading to flooding of land. Improved elevation data indicate far greater global threats from sea level rise and coastal flooding than previously thought, and thus greater benefits from reducing their causes.

Flooding and water contamination doesn’t just result in soil erosion, denudation, destruction and property damage; it also causes crop damage and crop failure, resulting in food insecurity, food shortages, hunger and starvation. Topsoil erosion depletes vital soil nutrients, which also affects vital ecosystems and agriculture – and, as a result, human food production. Flooding can also result in dangerous and devastating mud and landslides, as seen at the Eden Project during Storm Bella this Christmas.