The impact of high temperatures and flooding, what we're doing to help Bristol adapt, and what we'll do in the future.
Our climate is changing. Increases in global warming are inevitable, even with reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.
People, nature, buildings, infrastructure, and businesses are already vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This will increase as global temperatures rise.
Extreme weather events, such as floods, heatwaves, droughts, and storms, are already affecting the UK. We're also seeing:
- rising sea levels
- changes in our weather patterns and our seasons, with hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters
We need to be prepared for climate change impacts, so we can reduce the impact of emergencies. This will:
- save lives that may be otherwise lost
- protect people's health and wellbeing
Building longer-term climate resilience will also reduce the impact of incidents on public services, especially:
- emergency response
- our health and social care systems
The One City Climate Strategy sets out that:
- all main city stakeholders, especially building owners and operators, need to work together to prepare and adapt our buildings to cope with climate risks
- public service organisations need to improve resilience to climate risks through:
- collaborative organisational strategy
- long-term planning
- day-to-day delivery of public services
Things we can do to reduce our exposure to climate risks include:
- plan an emergency response that helps vulnerable people during extreme weather events
- put in place measures that adapt homes and businesses, so they can:
- cope better with heavy rainfall
- put flood protection measures in place
- help conserve water supplies
- reduce overheating risk
- contribute to urban cooling
The impact of high temperatures
Over the last five years, we've seen prolonged high temperatures and heatwaves during the summer months. Impacts included:
- buildings overheating
- decreased worker productivity
- highways affected by high temperatures
- increased demand for green spaces, especially in dense, urban areas
- increased impacts on health and wellbeing of vulnerable people
- pressure on health and social care systems with spikes in:
- calls to the NHS helpline
- hospital admissions
Heatwaves will get more frequent, more intense, and longer. Impacts will get worse in the future unless we put measures in place to become more resilient.
Extreme heat doesn't impact everyone in the same way. Older people, children younger than 5 years old, and those with underlying health conditions are especially likely to have trouble keeping themselves cool and hydrated during a heatwave.
Knowing who is most vulnerable and where they live gives us important information to help prepare for both current and future heat.
The impact of flooding
Bristol is at risk of flooding from several sources. Climate change is likely to make flooding more frequent and worse, making the city more vulnerable to it.
There have been several small floods in recent years. We haven't had any major flooding.
The greatest risk is tidal flooding from the river Avon. Today, around 1,200 properties are at risk of flooding from it. We estimate this will rise to around 4,500 existing properties by the year 2125, because of climate change.
There are 3,440 properties at risk from surface water flooding across Bristol. We're trying to reduce this risk by installing sustainable drainage systems (SuDS).
What we've done to help Bristol adapt to climate change
We've been working across the council and with key city stakeholders in a number of priority areas, including:
- worked with the Met Office to develop the Bristol City Pack, which describes how different climate change scenarios would affect our city, to help us plan better
- published an important piece of evidence used to produce the One City Climate Strategy, the Preliminary Climate Resilience Assessment: a high-level assessment of Bristol's vulnerability to key climate risks, especially:
- infrastructure networks, including water, communications and energy
- other critical city infrastructure, for example education, health and social care
- businesses and the economy
- research and development including producing the Keep Bristol Cool Mapping Tool to help us explore which Bristol citizens and areas are most vulnerable to heat risks
- integrated climate resilience into several important policies, strategies and plans including the new Local Plan
- developed the Bristol Avon Flood Strategy, to protect homes and businesses in the city centre from flooding
- delivered change on the ground, for example building a natural flood management system in Southmead and the Brooks Dye Works development
We've also developed the pdf Keep Bristol Framework (5.51 MB) , which sets out our plan for managing heat related risks to the city's population, public services and assets. It covers 4 areas of focus needed to increase our resilience:
- Protecting people's health and wellbeing during heatwave events including maintenance of critical public services
- Building urban heat resilience into new pieces of city, city infrastructure and new developments
- Tackling overheating risk in people's homes
- Using blue and green infrastructure for cooling streets and public spaces
There's also a separate pdf Keep Bristol Cool technical appendix (180 KB) that provides more detail on the methods used to develop the evidence base of Bristol's climate projections and the Heat Vulnerability Index.
How we'll help Bristol adapt to climate change
We'll continue to build Bristol's resilience to climate change through dedicated work in a number of areas, including:
- work with partners to develop the Avonmouth and Severnside flood defence project, to build major coastal defences
- build a large scale Sustainable Drainage System as part of the Resilient Frome project
- develop the Bedminster Green River Restoration project to improve the area around the Malago river for public enjoyment, biodiversity and flood risk management, including opening up the river
- develop a tree and woodland strategy that will offer multiple benefits for people and wildlife, including shade and urban cooling which will give respite during heatwaves and hot weather
- plan for, and respond to, severe weather emergencies, such as flood or heatwave