New tool will help communities adapt to climate change

Posted on 26th February 2024

An innovative tool that gives individuals and teams the best available evidence in making decisions and identifying actions required to adapt to a changing climate launches today.

As the world warms, increased temperatures and extreme weather events have severe implications for services ranging from emergency services to highways maintenance and social care. Climate science is complex and hard to navigate and it can be difficult to understand implications for specific fields and how best to avoid the worst impacts. The new tool makes the latest climate science accessible to decision makers in these fields and more, allowing them to plan for the future to provide the best services possible in a changing landscape.

The Local Climate Adaptation Tool (LCAT) has been developed by a team from the University of Exeter and Cornwall Council, with input from more than 50 other local authority areas across the UK. Decision-makers involved in the development include councils, health and emergency services. LCAT has been designed to help local organisations increase their adaptation response to local climate change, something a recent government report describes as having ‘failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk.

Associate Professor Emma Bland explains,

“Our colleagues in local councils, NHS Trusts and other local services were clear that to support action they needed a tool that is easy to use and understand, that provides local climate predictions, that supports their understanding of the impact that these changes have on local people – especially those most vulnerable – and provides recommendations for action.  All underpinned by evidence.

“LCAT responds by bringing the evidence to those who need it in a user-friendly way. It pulls together the best available data to provide local climate forecasts and provides the evidence in layers – giving summary overviews and then increasingly more detailed insights to meet the needs of different users. It also links users out to more specialist tools if additional detailed insights are needed. Significantly for decision-makers, LCAT also makes recommendations about the types of adaptation that should be considered, with the ultimate goal of supporting a multi-agency approach to building resilient and healthy communities.”

Cornwall Council has had a critical involvement in the project, having recognised the importance of ensuring its teams are able respond now, in order to prepare for future changes. This might mean physical adaptations such as installing energy efficient measures for heating or cooling via schemes like the Home Upgrade Grant in Camelford and Millbrook, or Property Flood Resilience measures in at risk properties across Cornwall.  However, adaptations can also take the form of policy interventions such as the Climate Emergency Development Plan Document, ensuring a positive and flexible local planning policy framework that that can help to reduce risk in new developments, whilst improving existing housing and infrastructure.

Cllr Martyn Alvey, Portfolio holder for Environment and Climate Change comments,

“As described in our Cornwall Climate Risk Assessment, Cornwall will inevitably be impacted by climate change, and has in some instances already begun to see the effects of a changing climate. Predictions of stronger storms, more high impact flooding, an increase in heatwaves and severe droughts will impact at a local level which can mean different things for different communities.

It’s vital that our officers and other decision makers have access to the latest evidence and are supported in planning for these changes. For example, we cannot expect a housing officer or a social care commissioner to also be a climate specialist, but the services they provide will be impacted. LCAT gives them the latest information at their fingertips so that, for example, the user could generate an understanding of the impacts of extreme temperatures on Cornwall’s residents, identify where and who is likely to be worst affected, and plan geographically where new and existing buildings could be adapted to manage heat more efficiently.

It is an essential tool in our armoury in preparing Cornwall and its residents and communities for the future, and will form a key resource in the development of the Cornwall Adaptation Strategy and Community Resilience and Adaptation Plans.”

It has been widely reported that 2023 shattered global annual heat records and 2024 may even surpass the key 1.5C warming threshold across the entire calendar year for the first time, according to the UK Met Office. As the impacts of climate change are felt across societies, the urgent need to adapt is rising up the political and public agenda and that means tools like LCAT are essential.

Chris Stark, Chief Executive The Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on tackling and preparing for climate change, states.

“Global warming can no longer be described as a future event and from flooding to heatwaves, the consequences are more and more apparent. Local adaptation to climate change is vitally important and is not making the progress we need to ensure the resilience of local communities.  Tools such as the Local Climate Adaptation Tool (LCAT) are a vital resource to support our local decision makers take urgent action to address our already changing climate and help towards reducing further impact.”

Sarah Lindley, Professor of Geography, University of Manchester & part of Climate Just tool which LCAT uses to report vulnerability data, adds:

“Effective climate adaptation is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a complex set of responses which must be tailored to specific – often local – needs and vulnerabilities. However, accessing data and information about local vulnerabilities can be difficult. Tools like LCAT and Climate Just are important as they provide usable data, link data to action, and support a rounded view of the individual, social and environmental dimensions of the adaptation challenge.”

LCAT is being developed in a staged approach, additional features are planned and improvements will be made with feedback from users. The University of Exeter and Cornwall Council team will continue to work with partners to review and improve the national platform on an ongoing basis in order to provide the best available information and evidence to those making critical decisions for their communities.

A free webinar to learn how the tool was created, how it works, and how to start using it to better to understand the impacts of climate will be held on 26th March. Sign up here Webinar: Supporting local climate adaptation and health using LCAT Tickets, Tue 26 Mar 2024 at 14:00 | Eventbrite

For more information or requests for interview, please contact p.mina@exeter.ac.uk 07967712689

 

 

 

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