Fire fighters air worries after IPCC’s ‘atlas of human suffering’

Ill-equipped: climate crisis could see more flooding events, which would stretch our emergency services

The country’s firefighters, the public service which is primarily tasked with responding to natural emergencies such as flooding or wildfires in heatwaves, says it is ill-prepared to cope with the kind of events which UN-backed scientists predict will occur over the next eight decades due to global warming.

Latest analysis of world’s ability to cope with global warming is a “damning indictment of failed leadership”, according to the UN after the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published its report on Monday.

The risks associated with even lower levels of warming are now greater than previously thought, said the UN report, which was signed off by 270 scientists from 67 countries.

Some losses were already irreversible and ecosystems were reaching the limits of their ability to adapt to the changing climate, the scientists warn.

“I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this,” said UN secretary-general António Guterres, who called the report an “atlas of human suffering”.

Short-staffed: there’s 20% fewer fire crews to cope with wildfires, such as this one at Croham Hurst during a summer drought in 2018

Hazards such as the rise in sea levels were unavoidable, and “any further delay” to mitigate and adapt to warming would miss the “window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.

Inger Andersen, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Assembly, said the world was on track for warming of 3C since the pre-industrial period. “We are in an emergency heading for a disaster,” she said.

A report last year predicted that the world was likely to reach 1.5C of warming within just 20 years, even in the best-case scenario of deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the pre-industrial period.

‘The future depends on us, not the climate’: the IPCC paints a troubling picture of the coming decades

“So much depends on what we do as a society,” said Dr Helen Adams, a lecturer at King’s College London and lead author.

“The future depends on us, not the climate.”

The evidence for human-induced climate change and its effects was “unequivocal”, and limiting warming to 1.5C would reduce but not eliminate the negative impact, said the report.

The report has caused grave concern for the nation’s firefighters, who are likely to be expected to deal with many of the consequences of global warming.

According to Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, the Fire Brigades Union, staffing of the country’s fire brigades has been reduced by 20per cent since 2010.

“Very soon we could be seeing devastating flooding and heatwaves on our shores, and a fire and rescue service that has seen huge cuts will find this too much to deal with,” Wrack said.

“We don’t even have statutory funding for dealing with flooding in England: that’s an embarrassment and symbolic of a government burying its head in the sand as an existential crisis approaches.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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1 Response to Fire fighters air worries after IPCC’s ‘atlas of human suffering’

  1. Peter Underwood says:

    In 2019 Croydon Council declared a climate emergency. We’re still waiting for them to act like it’s an emergency.

    I worked with a large group of local residents and experts to help produce the report of the Croydon Climate Crisis Commission. One of my promises as mayor is to get on with delivering the recommendations of that report, not leave it gathering dust on a shelf

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