By 2036 London's population will be over 10 million people, at the same time climate change predictions suggest an increase in summertime temperatures of up to approximately 3°C and a reduction in summer rainfall of up to 20 per cent. How will climate change affect our environment and how will our city management decisions affect the extent of environmental impact?

Source: UKCP09 Data
  Temperature °C Rainfall mm
Emission scenario Summer Winter Summer Winter
Low + 2.5 + 2.0 -14% +12%
Medium + 2.7 + 2.2 -19% +14%
High + 3.1 + 2.5 -19% +16%
  Higher summer temperatures Higher winter temperatures Reduced summer rainfall Increased winter rainfall
Outcome Higher summer temperatures causes the ground to dry out increasing the risk of subsidence. During the 2003 heatwave insurance claims for subsidence reached £400m — this will become the 'norm' by 2036. It's not all bad news. Higher winter temperatures mean less energy is needed to heat our homes. By 2080 the energy demand for winter heating in London could be reduced by 50%. The NERC Future Flows project suggests that lower summer rainfall as a result of climate change may lead to a decrease in river flows of around 15% in London and the Thames catchment, making restrictions on water use more likely. Lower summer rainfall places more stress on London's trees. Increased winter rainfall may lead to an increase in river flows of around 13% in London and the Thames catchment (medium emissions), worsening flood risk. Disruption to transport and city services is increasingly likely as a result of these storms and floods. Insurers paid out approximately £5 billion to households and businesses affected by flooding between 2000–2013.
Science for solutions By combining the BGS GeoSure dataset, and applying the UK Climate Projections (UKCP) scenarios for rainfall and temperature changes in the UK, maps have been produced for the south-east of England showing vulnerability to shrink swell clay and thus subsidence in the future due to climate change.   NERC's Changing Water Cycle programme funded research into Hydrological Extremes and Feedbacks (HydEF), assessing drought in London and the Thames catchment. Thames Water have used the hydrological models created by the research team to assess the impact of climate change on the availability of groundwater resources. The CEH have created a flood estimation handbook used by more than 300 companies and public sector organisations to design and assess structures potentially affected by flooding (e.g. bridges, sewers, reservoirs, Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and housing developments. This product reduces construction and flood damage costs by £8–30 million/year.

Learn more about climate research at NERC


Contact Stephanie Bricker for more information.