Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Climate expert targets the affluent

By Paul Moseley and Patrick Byrne
BBC East

Professor Kevin Anderson
Professor Kevin Anderson delivers a stark warning on climate change

On the eve of the Copenhagen summit on climate change BBC East speaks to Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Failure to control emissions of greenhouse gases and other atmospheric pollutants will be catastrophic to East Anglia, Professor Anderson claims.

The coast will be reshaped and vital agricultural land will be lost.

Change now will avert the worst of the impacts but the well-off will have to shoulder the burden, he said.

He is calling for a global response to the climate change problem.

An international team of scientists has already recorded that Greenland's icecap is disappearing at a much faster pace than seven or eight years ago.

Their report claims that if all of Greenland's ice thaws, the world's sea levels could rise by as much as seven metres, flooding many low-lying areas.

On the other hand some positive messages are being received from the tropics.

Communities and even whole villages will have to retreat many miles inland as coastal areas become inundated with salt water
Professor Kevin Anderson

The Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has welcomed as extraordinary a report that the annual rate of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has dropped by almost half - the biggest decline since records began.

But environmentalists have warned that the process of deforestation is far from being halted.

At a local level Professor Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre which has bases at the University of East Anglia and Manchester University, said without significant change over the next decade the region will face a very bleak time by 2030.

"By not getting atmospheric emissions - greenhouse gases - under control, sea levels will rise significantly and severe storms will occur more frequently."

The coastline of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex is vulnerable because it has many low-lying areas.

"A lot more coastal erosion will be seen and this will reshape the coastline. Communities and even whole villages will have to retreat many miles inland as coastal areas become inundated with salt water.

The Wash near Boston
The Wash is one of the the low-lying land areas at risk

"This will change agricultural practices - we'll have much less fresh water, more drought and food shortages as it will be more difficult to irrigate crops and agricultural land will be surrendered to the sea.

"People in villages, especially the old and vulnerable, will feel more stress and pressure will increase on medical, social and emergency services."

Evidence is growing around the world that the deterioration is already under way and the government is taking the initiative by publishing the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan.

This plots how the UK will meet a 34% cut in emissions on 1990 levels by 2020. It also outlines the objective of transforming the country into a cleaner, greener and more prosperous place to live.

Professor Anderson says the clock is running and by 2030 change for the worse will be well under way in East Anglia and by 2050 it will be too late unless measures are in place to tackle the problem.

"We have an opportunity now to get emissions down so the next few years will see radical changes," he said.

Well-off people are facing a very challenging future because they need to cut back on consumption of goods
Prof Kevin Anderson

"In the UK we need to cut greenhouse gases by as much as 60% because agriculture, that means food production, will always have unavoidable emissions of methane and carbon dioxide.

"Also we need to give newly industrialising countries in the world the space to develop and improve the welfare and well-being of their people.

"This means more cuts in energy use by the developed world. It also means lifestyle changes which will have most impact on the wealthy.

"Steps such as heating only one room in a smaller house, more use of public transport, more energy efficient cars, less foreign travel by aircraft and more walking or cycling are necessary."

Professor Anderson points to a direct correlation between income and responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions.

"Well-off people are facing a very challenging future because they need to cut back on consumption of goods.

"We've done this in the past. In the 60s and 70s we enjoyed a much healthier and moderate lifestyle and we need to return to this to keep emissions under control.

"It is a matter of the well-off 20% in a population taking the largest cuts.

"A more even society might result and we may even benefit from a low carbon and more green way of life.

"I would like to see people voluntarily moving to a lower carbon environment.

"However, I think government regulation is the way ahead because if we don't start now our way of life in East Anglia will plummet because of climate change."

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