Being prepared for the impacts of climate change

The goal is to develop, draft and secure the adoption of a CUH Climate Change Adaptation Plan whilst taking forward in parallel any high priority issues that require immediate action.

Historic emissions of greenhouse gases mean that, even if all human activity responsible for increasing the concentration of CO2e in the atmosphere stopped today, we would still be locked into an approximately 1.4°C rise in global temperatures that will cause changes to the climate system for next 30-40 years. The UN climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 produced agreement that a temperature rise of 2°C above pre-industrial levels was the ‘safe’ maximum beyond which the impacts of climate change would become dangerously unmanageable. The challenge of CUH making its contribution to reducing CO2e emissions has quite rightly been the priority focus of much of this Work Plan. However, adapting to the impact of changing weather patterns brought about by the global warming already tapped into climate systems is also of immediate importance.

Drawing on the detailed data published as UKCP09 the Trust should be considering the impact of climate change upon its services under two headings:

  • Effects on human health – especially heat-related mortality in vulnerable age-groups (those over 85 years old particularly at risk but also changes in air pollution, effect upon aeroallergens, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, implications for vector, water and food-borne diseases).
  • Effects upon our service delivery infrastructure – directly through on-site implications of over-heating, flooding and storm damage, and, indirectly through similar implications for our supply chains and waste management. Both should also be set against a context of increased stress through the effects on human health.

The NHS Sustainable Development Unit has usefully published guidance that focuses on the importance of planning now to make sure we are prepared, coordinated and resilient.