London will feel the heat as climate changes

A A A

Underground trains hot beyond bearing, working conditions constantly uncomfortable, air pollution in the streets steadily worsening and flooding that devastates housing and transport – such may be life in London during the coming century, a conference on climate change and the capital was told yesterday.

All of the possible consequences of global warming may affect London in a more severe way, speakers told the conference, because of the "urban heat island" effect – the rise in temperature caused by thousands of homes and businesses in close proximity.

Furthermore, its position on the edge of the Thames estuary makes the capital vulnerable to sea-level rises, with £80bn worth of land and property at risk – nearly a 10th of the national assets.

A study on the likely impact of climate change on London was launched at the conference, which was held at City Hall, the Greater London Assembly building, and addressed by the Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and the Environment Minister, Michael Meacher.

Mr Meacher painted a stark picture. "Climate change could be a particular problem for London because of urban heat island effect," he said. "London is five to six degrees warmer than its rural surroundings on summer nights, and climate change will certainly intensify this effect.

"By the end of the century, summers could be as hot as those of present-day New York, and buildings could become uncomfortable to live and work in. We could experience some very, very high temperatures in the London underground, where it has already reached 40C on one occasion."

Extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storm surges and heavy spells of rain would become more frequent, Mr Meacher said. "During a rainstorm in August this year over an inch of rain fell on London in a half-hour period, leading to closure of five of the capital's mainline railway stations. That's just one example and, I repeat, we are at the beginning of a rising curve."

Climate change was also increasing the flood risk to London from storm surges and sea-level rise, Mr Meacher said. "The city has a far greater potential for damage from flooding than any other urban area in the UK."

Last year, the Thames barrier was closed 13 times, the greatest number of closures in its 18-year record. The Environment Agency had estimated that an additional £4bn will need to be invested over the next 40 years to protect London from rising sea levels.

The urban heat island effect might mean poorer health and comfort in the capital, a greater demand for cooling, and poorer air quality, Dr Rob Wilby of King's College London said. It might also affect wildlife, and some species – such as the rosy-ringed parakeet breeding in some London parks – might do well.

The weather patterns to be expected in summer, with high pressure systems giving more sunshine and lower wind speed, would exacerbate the poor air quality problems, Dr Wilby said.

Jim Kersey of the environmental consultancy Entec said the rise in temperatures could mean workplaces will be uncomfortable for a quarter of the capital's population by 2050. There could be some benefits for tourism and leisure, with a growth in pavement café culture. "But, in general, the effect on society will be more negative than positive," Mr Kersey said.

News
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own