Are carbon emissions to blame? (Part 2)
Last week’s blog covered the increased risk of flooding that climate change brings. Ironically, going hand in hand with flooding is the issue of water availability. As temperatures rise and sea levels rise, fresh water will become more scarce.
But why? More flooding means more water right?
Wrong. Approximately 98% of our water is salty and only 2% is fresh. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice, 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere.
Climate change impacts on fresh water in a number of ways:
1) Warmer temperatures melt the fresh water in polar ice caps into the sea.
2) It also melts inland glaciers. In the short term this will increase fresh water supplies to rivers and lakes, but not indefinitely. When the last of the glaciers are gone that fresh water source will be exhausted.
3) As we saw in last week’s blog, climate change increases the amount of water the atmosphere can hold, which leads to heavier rainfall and flooding. Increased water in the atmosphere reduces the amount we can store and use.
4) There is more rain and less snow. This equals higher evaporation rates and once again, more water in the atmosphere.
A recent study by consultancy HR Wallingford, found that the UK as a whole, currently has 10 per cent more water in public water supplies than we currently need. This equates to a surplus of around 2,000,000,000 litres per day (2,000 Ml/d). However, things are set to change as global temperatures increase and the UK population grows. Supplies will diminish but demand will go up.
The study predicts that supply-demand deficits will be widespread by the 2050s, with water demand exceeding supply by around 800 to 3,200 Ml/d (5-16 per cent of the total demand for water at that time) under high population and high climate change projections.
But is this really a surprise to many? We have long known that our carbon emissions are changing our environment. The stark truth is that environmental change isn’t something affecting just the third world: it will have a massive impact on our own environment, on our own families and friends.
The heating industry in particular has been making technological leaps to make products more efficient and less polluting to the atmosphere. The CIPHE encourages all our members to be at the top of their game, undertake regular training and CPD in the latest industry advancements, and importantly, educate customers so that they make decisions based on energy efficiency and not just cost.