What climate change could mean for Cumbria

  • Video report by Ralph Blunsom

A leading Cumbrian scientist is warning that the county will face periods of intense drought and flooding as a result of climate change.

Simon Carr, an associate professor at the University of Cumbria, has made a special study of the recent United Nations report on climate change.

He has said that soil will become drier and could be washed away in heavy rains and believes we all need to make changes to our lifestyles.

Dr Carr said :

He added: "The IPCC report forecasts that by the middle of this century probably the next couple of decades temperatures will have increased globally by about a degree and a half and the UK is broadly going to have  that sort of very average increase which it doesn't sound a great deal but a degree and a half of warming from where we were before industrialization that's warmer than we've had for the last 125,000 years so that takes us right out of a climate envelope that we're used to." 

The direct consequences in Cumbria can be seen in the weather.

Dr Carr said: "We are not used to dry conditions here in Cumbria but for the last four years every July has been unprecedentedly dry and then its been followed quite often in August and early September with quite intense storm events.

"That creates a real perfect storm for us in terms of what it means for water storage what it means for vegetation what it means for soil erosion what it means for landscape stability what it means for coastal stability really the impact of what we're talking about within the IPCC report is, I think for the first time we can recognise its going to affect everybody in Cumbria in slightly different ways but were going to visibly see that impact occurring."  

Dr Carr is particularly concerned that periods of high temperature and drought will dry out topsoil on the county's fells and high ground, cracking it and making it unstable. Subsequent periods of heavy rain could see this soil simply washed away.

Methane, which is heavily produced through agriculture, is a major greenhouse gas.

After carbon the largest greenhouse gas is methane. The biggest producer of that is agriculture, which presents a particularly difficult problem in Cumbria.

"Of course there's the tension there in terms of saying one of the key solutions one of the scientific solutions to climate change is to reduce considerably the concentration of grazing on the high fells and also in the valleys to reduce dairy and cattle and sheep farming and chicken farms as well all of these are major sources of greenhouse gases so thats something that we know will make a difference but of course there are lots of livelihoods connected up into that and this is where we start getting into those difficult questions of how do we manage that process because there are communities which are embattled that really require a lot of support to be able to transition out of this sort of system of farming that we've currently got."

Dr Carr was also keen to stress that the UN report highlights that actions taken to achieve net zero like moving away from fossil fuels and increasing tree planting will have a positive effect on the environment and may offset some of the damage which has been done.

He said: