Derbyshire faces melting roads, more flooding and packed hospitals, report warns
MELTING roads, soaring hospital admissions, homes too hot to live in and more floods are among the global-warming effects facing Derbyshire over the next 40 years, a new report has warned.
There are also fears of more car crashes, tougher working conditions, loss of food supply and public events being called off because of extreme weather conditions becoming more frequent.
The dire predictions will come true unless action is taken now to reduce climate change, says a study by experts at Derbyshire County Council.
Ian Stephenson, strategic director of environmental services, said: "The tar on the roads would start to melt.
"We would have to send our gritting fleet out to lay sand on the roads – but they can't get round to all of them.
"We could have to find people alternative accommodation if where they were living did not have air conditioning and became too hot.
"We could see more hospital admissions, with elderly people in particular suffering from things like heat stroke.
"In colder weather, icy roads will be more of a frequent problem and we wouldn't be able to prevent every accident.
"The challenges would be great."
Mr Stephenson said the council was developing a 44-point plan geared to "mitigating" the impact.
But he admitted the authority would need help.
"We can't do everything," he said. "Local communities need to do what they can.
"It's not just the county council's responsibility. We haven't got the resources.
"Everyone has to play their part.
"We've got the snow wardens and we've got the sandbags but the county is so big that it would take two-and-a-half hours for us to get them to all the areas that need assistance.
"That's why people need to be looking at what they can do as individuals to protect themselves and their properties."
Mr Stephenson said the county could not afford to ignore the threat of climate change.
He said: "The number of extreme weather events we are experiencing is increasing and they are becoming more extreme.
"Even now, we're getting harder winters more often and we're due an extreme summer.
"The key thing is to be ready for when an extreme weather event hits us.
"We're not going to stop things like flooding – it's going to happen. What we must do is mitigate the impact."
Projections state that, by 2080, winters in Derbyshire will be almost twice as warm, on average, than current readings, although the average summer temperature will increase by just 2°C.
Mr Stephenson said people should not be fooled by the figures.
He said: "The average temperature for the summer might only go up by a few degrees. But averages can be misleading.
"The reality is we will get more frequent spells of extremely hot weather that might last a week or two.
"The impact at the time could be severe but, if the rest of the year is normal, the average temperature will only be slightly increased.
"You can look at the average rainfall. If it happens across the 12 months, the county will be fine. But if it all happens in June, there will be extreme flooding.
"Bursts of extreme weather can cause major problems.
"We're due an extreme summer. People snigger a bit about that but the reality is that, when it last happened across Europe, there were quite a few deaths."
Mr Stephenson said: "It might look alarmist but we're not sitting on our hands.
"We're working tirelessly with various partners to make sure the impact is minimised.
"A lot of the things are simple. For example, farmers can clear ditches and plough their fields in a way that allows them to retain the water."
Mr Stephenson said the 44-point plan was at an early stage and not yet costed out.
One idea is to design all new buildings so they are resistant to climate change.
He said: "We get £360,000 a year from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to address flooding.
"The council's winter maintenance budget is about £2.5 million a year and we've nearly set up a £2 million contingency fund for extreme weather.
"What we can't do, however, is to always be looking for more money.
"We've got to make sure the money we've got, and that of our partners, is focused on doing the right things.
"We're looking ahead to 2020 to 2050. If you can tell me what the budget will be in 2020, you're a better man than me. This is simply the first step along a long road."
Mr Stephenson insisted people should not be scared by the report.
He said: "The only massive headaches are things you don't know about. That's not the case here.
"We know about climate change and work is being carried out to put us in a strong position. It's a real challenge but we've got a plan."