Britain ranks top risks posed by climate change

LONDON (AP) ? Coastlines, working patterns, and even the country’s most famous meal are under threat from climate change, Britain said Thursday in its first-ever national assessment of the likely risks.

The 2.8 million pound ($4.4 million) study sets out the most pressing problems expected to affect the United Kingdom as a result of climate change, from rising sea levels to more frequent summer droughts.

In a gloomy forecast for Britain’s environment department, a panel of independent analysts predicted as many as 5,900 more people could die as a result of hotter summers ? but also claimed there will be a sharp reduction in deaths currently due to cold weather by the 2050s.

Infrastructure and businesses will be badly affected by more frequent floods, with the cost of damage likely to rise from 1.3 billion pounds ($2 billion) to as much as 12 billion pounds ($18.8 billion) by the 2080s, if adequate preparations aren’t taken.

By the 2050s, between 27 million and 59 million people in Britain are likely to be living in areas suffering problems with water supplies, the report claims. Britain is predicted to have a population of about 77 million by 2050.

Beaches and historic coastlines are likely to be reshaped by coastal erosion, with the rate expected to increase fourfold, the report said. “This might have significant implications for communities and habitats,” it said.

Analysts predict an increase in the overheating of workplaces which would harm businesses by reducing employee productivity and increasing energy bills, because of a greater reliance on air conditioning.

Without alteration work, sewers will overflow more frequently and spill pollution into seas and rivers, while heavier rainfall is likely to cause frequent damage to roads, railway tracks and bridges.

The report also warned that Britain’s stocks of cod ? a key component of the nation’s beloved fish and chips ? will dwindle, but should be replaced by more plentiful numbers of fish such as plaice and sole.

However, the study also points out possible benefits to Britain. It notes that there will likely be better yields for crops of wheat, sugar beet and potatoes, that the melting of Arctic sea ice will open quicker shipping routes and that warmer temperatures will make the U.K. a more attractive tourist destination.

“Without an effective plan to prepare for the risks from climate change the country may sleepwalk into disaster,” said John Krebs, chairman of a group that advises Britain’s government on adapting to climate change.

Britain has pledged to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2025, though the target could be loosened if other European countries fail to cut their own emissions accordingly.

The U.K. has a legally mandated commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.

Analysts who drafted the report said other nations likely face more significant challenges than Britain in coping with the impact of a changing climate.

“Potential climate risks in other parts of the world are thought to be much greater than those directly affecting the U.K., but could have a significant indirect impact here … on global health, political stability and international supply chains,” the report said.