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What are the climate threats?

There are a range of risks and threats that will be caused by the climate emergency, many of which will overlap with one another. The impact of these threats will also depend on how quickly we can reduce our carbon emissions. You can see what the difference between 2ºC and 4ºC of warming will mean for overheating and rainfall in your area on this website.

We must consider how extreme changes in the weather will affect our lives, health and our economy. Climate change will not affect all people in the same way and could make inequalities worse without us taking action now.

We've broken these risks down into five categories to help us target our work. We've summarised the categories below. If you'd like more details, view our full climate resilience and adaptation strategy.

Overheating

Flooding

Water scarcity

Trade and food security

Pests and diseases

Read about how we plan to take action on these threats

Overheating

Overheating is when it becomes too warm for us to safely continue as normal. This can happen because the heat can have a direct impact on our physical and mental health. Or it may be because the strain on public services and risks of wildfires means that it's increasingly dangerous or unsafe.

In Southwark, we're particularly at risk of this. Cities stay hotter than the countryside which means central London can be up to 10°C hotter than the country. Being too hot during heatwaves is something that many of us already struggle with, and London is predicted to keep getting warmer.

Hotter summers also make wildfires more likely. In recent years there has been an increase in grass fires in London.

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Flooding

Flooding is where buildings, businesses and essential services are damaged by water. There are different types of flooding that we need to prepare for, such as:

  • flash floods, when there is too much water for our networks to drain away, also known as ‘surface water flooding’
  • long periods of excessive rain, which means no more water can soak into the ground. This might lead to a basement or low-lying land becoming underwater
  • flooding from the Thames due to sea level rises, also known as ‘tidal surges’
  • pollution from our sewer network during rainfall. This happens during periods of rainfall where water from the sewers go into our streets and rivers

In Southwark, we had major surface water flooding in July 2021. As a low-lying area we are also at risk from sea-level rises – although we're currently protected by the Thames Barrier against tidal surges.

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Water scarcity

Water is essential for all of us in the borough, in nearly everything that we do. Climate change threatens our vital water resources due to droughts, which means our rivers and groundwater are running dry. London already suffers from serious water stress, which means there is a need to reduce water use.

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Trade and food security

We have seen in recent years, from COVID to the war in Ukraine, how global shocks can create shortages and cost increases for food and other essentials in our shops. Climate Change may cause similar shocks and stresses which will have major impacts to supply chains, global infrastructure and food production.

Currently, in the UK, we import around 40% of our food. This means we will be affected by changes happening in other countries. As food insecurity rises globally, we would expect to see price increases and more inequality in Southwark.

Climate change will also affect local businesses. Floods, heatwaves, droughts, and strong winds are causing problems for how things are made and delivered. This means extreme weather events locally, and far from Southwark, can have large impacts on our local businesses.

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Pests and diseases

As our climate changes, we are seeing pests and diseases thrive in new and unexpected ways. These pests and diseases are a threat to us, as well as to our plants and wildlife. There are a few different types of threats:

  • new species, which can now survive in a warmer UK climate, and cause damage to our native plants and wildlife
  • increased risks to humans of diseases that are currently found in warmer countries
  • new pests and diseases, which can threaten our plants and animals, such as sudden oak death, which thrive in more moist and wet conditions

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What will the council do?

What is the strategy?

Download and read our strategy, as well as other documents

Page last updated: 15 March 2024

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