Zero Carbon Cumbria - Carbon reduction action across the county.

Climate change in Cumbria

Scientists predict that global warming will lead to changes in the UK’s climate, which we’ll feel here in Cumbria. Winters will be warmer and wetter. Summers will be warmer and drier. We’ll have more extremes of weather, and they’ll be more intense – with storm surges causing flooding, for example.

These changes in our climate will have knock-on effects here in Cumbria. These are likely to include issues with food supply and water quality, loss of wildlife, impact on farming practices, and diseases.

Indeed, we’re already seeing some of these impacts.

About Cumbria
A flooded village scene, with street markings, fences and walls almost totally submerged

Extreme Weather

Flooding has put lives and livelihoods at risk and caused huge damage in the county. Homes, workplaces and infrastructure such as roads, bridges and power lines have all been affected by flooding, along with damage to wildlife habitat.

Long dry spells and heat waves have put vulnerable people at risk and have affected farming and wildlife in Cumbria.

Severe cold weather like the ‘Beast from the East’ saw people in rural areas cut off for days, with some of our most vulnerable residents struggling to stay warm. Farm animals and wildlife suffered greatly, too.

High winds have damaged homes and infrastructure, felled trees and put lives at risk.

Rising Sea levels

Cumbria has over 100 miles of coastline. Low-lying areas are particularly at risk from the rising sea levels that are predicted.

A child wearing a face covering

Impact on health

The 2019 Cumbria Public Health Report describes some of the challenges of climate change, including worsening air pollution, the spreading of disease, food insecurity through the impact on agriculture and land use, migration and displacement of populations. Cumbria, as mentioned in the report, will be affected by the rising sea levels, unpredictable weather patterns and rising temperatures. It’s clear that the health of the planet is crucial for our own health.

Public Health Annual Report 2019 (cumbria.gov.uk)

Cumbria’s role in climate change

Cumbria, like every region in the UK, has been adding to the problem of climate change just by going about our normal lives.

It’s basically because of burning fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas. They’re the main cause of climate change, along with some other types of emissions that come from industry and farming, for example.

The main causes of climate change in Cumbria

Emissions.

We generate the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change in just about every aspect of life. Here in Cumbria, there has been some research to understand the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

This was commissioned by the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership, and it was carried out by Small World Consulting, nationally recognised experts in carbon accounting. The findings are in the Carbon Baseline of Cumbria report, February 2020.

The report shows where Cumbria’s emissions come from and is helping the partnership to create plans to reduce them. The report showed that in 2019 Cumbria emitted greenhouse gases equivalent to 7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

This is the amount of emissions that are under Cumbria’s control. There are other emissions on top of that, such as people travelling through Cumbria on the M6, and national infrastructure based here in the county, such as Sellafield.

Cumbria's 7 million tonnes of emissions come from:
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Burning coal, oil, and gas in Cumbria for heat, energy and fuel
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The electricity used in Cumbria (whether it’s generated in Cumbria or elsewhere)

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The food we eat and the stuff we buy (regardless of where the goods were produced)

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Resident and visitor travel (to, from, in and around Cumbria, but not including international visitor travel)

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Different forms of land use (some add to our emissions, and some reduce them by absorbing carbon)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main gas that’s causing climate change, but there are others.

Some of them are even more powerful than CO2 when it comes to holding heat in our atmosphere. But it would get very complicated to list them all separately, so they’re generally grouped into one figure, CO2 equivalent. Scientists have given each greenhouse gas a CO2 equivalent – that is, how much CO2 it would take to produce the same amount of warming. For example, 1kg of methane would be the equivalent of 25kg of carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years in the atmosphere.

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