What is climate change and what does it mean for Lambeth?

Climate change is the long-term shift in average weather patterns around the world. Climate change is caused by human activities that contribute to release carbon dioxide and other powerful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases cause global temperatures to rise, resulting in long-term changes to the climate.

More information around sources of greenhouse gases and climate change on the Met Office website.

Among the activities that contribute to climate change are burning fossil fuels (e.g. to produce energy, for commercial and personal transport, to produce goods), agriculture, deforestation.

How is climate change affecting Lambeth?

The latest climate change projections for the South-East of England, and London in particular, show that due to climate change:

  • Summers will become hotter and drier;
  • Winters will become milder and wetter;
  • Soils will become drier on average;
  • Snowfall and the number of very cold days will decrease;
  • Sea and rivers will rise; and
  • Storms, heavy and extreme rainfall, and extreme winds will become more frequent.

In Lambeth, climate change will primarily lead to:

  • increased risk of flooding
  • intensification of the urban heat island effect
  • increased air pollution.

Increased risk of flooding

According to the Environment Agency, by the year 2050, rainfall intensity will increase by 20% compared to 1990 levels, and by 2080, rainfall intensity will increase by 40%. The increased likelihood of more frequent extreme rainfall events will aggravate the risk of flooding. As a heavily populated, urban area, build on a flood plain, Lambeth is likely to be affected by an increased risk of flooding.

Heavy rain and floods will not only impact our natural environment (e.g. parks, rivers), but they will also affect the health and wellbeing of our residents, as well as our infrastructure. Older buildings in the borough may be particularly affected by flooding.

View more information about Flooding and what we're doing to mitigate it in Lambeth.

Intensification of the urban heat island effect

As a metropolitan area, Lambeth is subject to the urban island effect. An urban heat island is a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas, due to human activities and to lack of vegetation (more energy and heat are stored by buildings and the ground in urban areas, than in rural areas).

Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, intensify the urban heat island effect. By 2050, what we in this country think of as being a heat wave of the kind experienced in the summer of 2003 may well be the norm. The Government’s latest UK Climate Change Projections suggest that by the 2050s, London could see an increase in mean summer temperature of 2.7 degrees.

According to a recent study, by 2050 London could experience weather as hot as temperatures today in Barcelona in Spain or Melbourne in Australia. Extreme temperatures, and the urban heat island effect, will impact on the health of our citizens as well as on Lambeth’s environment. During the summer heatwaves of 2019, according to Public Health England, there were almost 900 additional deaths.

Increased air pollution

Air pollution and climate change are closely linked. The main sources of GHG – vehicle exhaust, energy production, factories – are also a major source of air pollution. Furthermore, air pollutants, particularly Ozone, worsen climate change by affecting the amount of sunlight that is reflected or absorbed by the atmosphere (thus increasing or decreasing the temperature of the Earth).

In Lambeth, air pollution is mainly caused by transport, commercial and domestic heating and construction sites. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM) are among the most dangerous air pollutants. Air pollution in Lambeth affects the health and wellbeing of our citizens, as well as the environment. All information around air quality in Lambeth can be found here: https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/better-fairer-lambeth/air-quality If we don’t decrease air pollution, we’ll worsen the effect of climate change.

To find more detailed information, see the Met Office's UK Climate change projections 2018 factsheets.

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