Climate Change on the Isle of Wight
A study conducted in 2020 found that as of 2017, the Isle of Wight produces approximately 506,900 tonnes of carbon dioxide and other emissions every year. This is a tiny fraction of the amount of emissions produced around the world. It should not stop us taking climate action as this has many other benefits to our local community.
Decreasing the use of fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy or using electric vehicles instead of petrol or diesel cars means fewer emissions entering the atmosphere. Reducing the risk of climate change on the Island will mean the air will be cleaner. This will have a positive impact on resident’s health.
In the long term, it is likely to be cheaper to use renewable energy or electric vehicles. Initial costs of installing or purchasing these technologies is high at the minute. It is likely to decrease over time as they become used more widely.
There are some schemes available to help with the cost of some of these technologies:
Many local authorities and businesses are encouraging active travel to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. This reduces emissions and leads to cleaner air. It also has more health benefits because people will be taking more exercise during their daily commute. Some examples of what is happening on the Isle of Wight include:
Emissions in some areas will be difficult to reduce. Carbon offsetting is being incorporated in climate action plans around the world. This means taking action to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere. It often takes place by planting trees, or other forms of planting or rewilding. This cleans the air locally. It also provides access to green space. It has been shown to have several other benefits, including:
- Improved mental health.
- Improved physical health.
- Longer life spans.
Another area being examined is waste and resource use. Around the world, people now use more resources than the Earth can sustainably produce.
You may have heard of ‘Earth Overshoot Day’, usually around August each year. This date has been promoted in the past few years to demonstrate the date by which the world’s sustainable resources for the year have been used up. Better management of resources can reduce our carbon footprint. It can also protect the natural environment as less intensive production of resources would be needed.
How our climate will change
Climate change is likely to have several impacts on the Isle of Wight, some of which we have already begun to see taking place.
Hotter summers: Summers are very likely to become hotter on the Isle of Wight. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that average summer temperatures are very likely to increase. While this is the average expected temperature increase, some days could be much hotter than they currently are while other days remain about the same.
The Climate Change Committee (theccc.org.uk) expects that heatwaves like the one seen by the UK in 2018 currently have a 10 to 25% chance of occurring each year. By 2050 it will have a 50% chance of occurring each year. According to UKCP18, we are likely to see summer temperatures increase by 3.6 to 5.0ºc by 2080.
Drier summers: As the temperature increases in summers, those summers will also become drier. Less frequent, less severe rainfall will take place over the summer months. The Isle of Wight currently relies on around a quarter of its water coming from the mainland. The rest comes from local sources.
Drier summers will increase the risk of water shortages on the Island. Drier summers could also impact on crop growth and harvests. In extreme circumstances it could increase the risk of wildfires. According to UKCP18 (UK Climate Projections UKCP) - Met Office), we can expect to see as much as a 40% decrease in rainfall over the summer in the south of England.
Milder and wetter winters: As rainfall decreases and temperatures increase in the summer, more water will evaporate into the atmosphere. This will lead to winters becoming milder but wetter.
On the Island this is likely to increase the risk of flooding. This has already been an issue in recent years. Isle of Wight Local Flood Risk Management Strategy.
Rainfall may also become more intense. This increases the risk of landslips, something which the Isle of Wight is already particularly prone to owing to the Island’s geology. View the West Wight Coastal Strategy.
According to UKCP18 (UK Climate Projections (UKCP) - Met Office), we can expect to see as much as a 27% increase in rainfall over the winter in the south of England. The frequency of wet days will also increase by around 9%. Winters are likely to be warmer by between 1.9 to 3.3ºc on average by 2080.
Seasonal shifts: As temperatures change weather patterns, we may see some shifts in seasons. For example, earlier flooding, later frosts, and changes in agricultural growing seasons.
Sea level rise: While temperatures warm the Earth’s atmosphere, the risk of sea level rise increases. Higher temperatures are leading to losses of both sea ice and glaciers. The higher temperatures can also lead to thermal expansion of water.
These factors combined mean that we are already seeing sea levels rise. Global average sea levels have risen by approximately 21 to 24 centimetres since 1880. About 8 to 10 centimetres of this occurring in the last 25 years. We could see as much as a 115 centimetre increase in sea levels in the south of England by 2100 at current rates of climate change.
Adding slightly to the effects of sea-level rise on the Island is the fact that land in the South of England is dropping at a rate of about 1mm/year. This is due to the earth’s surface re-adjusting to the melting of the last ice sheets in Northern Europe.