Climate change is nothing new in geological timescales. But in human timescales we have had a long period with a very stable climate. The planet is now warming and there are few scientists who doubt that these changes are the result of human activity. Scientists are predicting a continued rise in global temperatures leading to:
- hotter, drier summers
- warmer, wetter winters
- more extreme weather events
Impacts of climate change on the Lake District
The Lake District is already experiencing more erratic weather patterns. Disastrous floods in 2009 and drought in 2010 are just two examples of extreme weather events. Over the years ahead we expect more significant changes. A study by Natural England identifies a range of impacts including:
- Species loss: plants and animals which are at the edge of their range could become locally extinct. Examples include the mountain ringlet butterfly and the Arctic charr a cold water loving fish which has lived in Windermere since the ice age.
- Migration upwards: Migrations of habitats upwards, squeezing upland landscapes into smaller areas making them more vulnerable.
- Increase in non-native species: Examples include pygmy weed in wetland habitats, Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed. All are invasive plants which spread rapidly pushing out native plants and the wildlife which depend on them. Another unwelcome arrival could be Bluetongue disease in cattle which is spread by a species of midge seen for the first time in Britain in 2007. This disease would have a serious effect on farmers.
- Changes to lakes: Falling lake levels in summer and poorer water quality as pollutants become more concentrated. Erosion caused by heavy rain will increase siltation. Toxic blue-green algae may become more common in lakes affecting recreational use. Midges may be more of a problem near lakes.
- Changes to woodlands: Woodlands will suffer more storm damage and trees could suffer from summer drought. Woodlands will change as some species adapt better than others.
- Drying out of peat: Peat locks carbon into the soil. It is estimated the peat in the UK stores around 3 billion tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of 20 years of UK carbon emissions. Figures from Moors for the Future project (opens in new window) Hot dry summers could lead to peat drying out releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Footpath erosion caused by high numbers of visitors contributes to this problem - read more on Fix the Fells (opens in new window).
- Greater risk of extreme weather events: Storms, high winds, flooding, drought and forest fires could all increase. The storms of January 2005 caused the loss of many trees in the Lake District and Windermere reached its highest level for many years in July 2007.
- Footpath erosion Heavy winter rainfall can have a devastating affect on footpaths - the extreme rainfall in November 2009 washed away many footpaths and footbridges.
How we are managing climate change
The Lake District National Park Authority is aiming to become a leader in managing climate change. We are working to reduce our own impact on the climate by cutting our carbon emissions. We will be working with others through action and education in partnership with other organisations - you can read more on our Climate change page.
Low Carbon Lake District
In January 2012 we launched Low Carbon Lake District and published Adapting to Climate Change in the Lake District (PDF). This looks in detail at the risks, opportunitie and actions presented by climate change.
Our recent actions
Helping create a low-carbon Lake District
Local carbon budget: this UK first measures carbon emissions from the local area. We work with partners to meet reduction targets. Managed collectively by the Lake District National Park Partnership.
Carbon in the Lake District landscape: We have mapped the carbon currently stored in the Lake District, and calculated the amounts stored in peatlands and woodlands.
GoLakes Travel Programme: A three-year programme transforming how visitors get to, and travel around, the Central and Southern Lake District.
Our planning policies: these make sure development in the National Park meets the highest energy efficiency standards and, where possible, integrates low-carbon energy generation.
Our own carbon reduction: We have met our target to reduce our own carbon emissions by 25 per cent over four years. We are now committed to a rolling programme of carbon reduction.
Learning about climate: Our learning team has developed educational resources to help learning about climate change.
Adapting to climate change in the Lake District:
We are helping locals build resilience and adapt to a changing climate. In 2012 we published an initial assessment of risks, opportunities and actions for climate change adaptation in the Lake District.
Lake District Adaptation Report - updated 2014
Lake District Adaptation Report - updated 2015
Cumbria Carbon Footprint Report (PDF): We are working with local authorities in Cumbria and with the Local Enterprise Partnership, to measure and manage emissions across the county.