‘How does climate change affect me?’

On the day that East Devon District Council considers a report that “concerns matters of life and death” for future generations, you may be asking yourself how the climate change emergency is impacting you and your environment.

The fact is that climate change is already making a difference to all of our lives – even in East Devon.

Causes of global warming include an increase in greenhouse gases, deforestation, population growth, and the destruction of ecosystems in our seas.

There are long-term health implications as a result of the impact on air quality and risks associated with flooding.

But there are other, less obvious changes that impact everything from the fish we eat to what crops local farmers grow.

The World Wide Fund for Nature, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, says even a 1C rise in sea temperature can displace fish. Locally, that could see cod, plaice and haddock moving as many as 400 miles away. If you like your fish fresh, you may have to change your tastes in the future.

With a rise in sea temperatures comes some exotic species. There are an increasing number of sun fish sightings, along with reports of hammerhead sharks and trigger fish.

The National Farmers’ Union says its members are changing the crops they grow. Warmer temperatures mean more are harvesting sunflowers and maize.

While the sight of sunflowers may sound appealing, drought stress has been rising and impacting crops for the past two decades.

Water conservation has become a more pressing issue, with growers having to prioritise which plants benefit from irrigation systems.

Locally, this could see vegetables and salad crops given priority. However, with native insects surviving warmer winters, farmers are having to do more to protect their crops from aphids.

Poultry farmers are keeping a close eye on temperatures. Extremely long, hot spells – like the heatwave last year – can lead to spikes in the death rate.

Impact of climate change on buildings

The Building Research Establishment says climate change is impacting the foundations of buildings – the result of drier soil. If you are a homeowner, have we got your attention?

In the future, new regulations are likely to take this into account – as well as the impact of strengthening wind speeds on tall buildings.

To combat the risks of flooding, the standard height for sea defences has been revised and the Government is committed to spending literally hundreds of millions on new flood defence schemes.

Today East Devon District Council could agree to sign up to the Devon Climate Change Emergency Declaration. The council’s portfolio holder for environment, Councillor Jeff Jung says the authority has  “a moral and legal duty to act on climate change now”.

Meanwhile, Councillor Ben Ingham, leader of the council, points out tackling climate change locally will go “deeper than recycling a bit more”.

He said it is about “dramatically reducing what we buy” and “embracing the circular economy”.

Don’t think climate change impacts you? Think again.


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