The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union could make it more difficult for the country to cope with rising seas, floods and the spread of tropical diseases compounded by climate change, according to government advisors.
The report issued Tuesday by the Committee on Climate Change flags heightened risks the U.K. government needs to mitigate as the nation of 64 million people begins the process of withdrawing from the EU following its June 23 referendum.
“The coordination needed to deal with climate change will be more difficult under Brexit,” said University of Leeds Professor Andrew Challinor, who helped write the report. “Climate change risks cross international boundaries, and dealing with them requires cross-government and international coordination.”
With 14 of the hottest 15 years globally having occurred since 2000, scientists say the impacts of climate change are already apparent. Those impacts are set to worsen, and risks could rise if the U.K. withdraws key EU environmental laws—covering farming, fishing, water, wildlife and flooding—without replacing them with legislation that’s equivalent or better, the committee said.
“The U.K. will be facing mounting economic costs from climate change impacts at a time when our economy will be under much greater strain due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit,” said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, in response to the findings.
The report enumerates risks the U.K. faces from climate change:
- Heatwaves similar to those experienced in 2003 are expected to become summer norms by the 2040s, and the number of premature heat-related deaths is expected to more than triple by the 2050s.
- Flooding and coastal erosion is already occurring and will probably worsen, threatening communities, businesses and infrastructure.
- Water shortages will be caused by drought and increasing populations, resulting in a need for more irrigation.
- Increased food prices will be caused by declining quality of soil and water shortages.
- Increased pressure will be put on nature and the services it provides, including food, timber, fiber, clean water and carbon storage.
- New pests and diseases will affect people and plants, a result of warmer and wetter conditions. Diseases could include malaria, West Nile fever, dengue fever and higher incidence of Lyme disease.