Climate change


An environmental issue

Skip to:   The threats  •  Facts & case studies  •  Legislation

Climate change


The Climate Change issue.

Our climate is changing fast. The Earth is warming at an alarming rate, triggering more unusual weather patterns, causing more natural disasters such as coastal inundation, flooding and drought.

The UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP), working with experts from the Met Office’s Hadley Centre and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research have produced a series of forecasts about how the UK climate will change during this century. Over the coming decades, they predict the following:

  • The UK’s climate will become warmer.
  • High summer temperatures will be more frequent.
  • Cold winter temperatures will become increasingly rare.
  • Winters will become wetter.
  • Intense rainfall events in winter will become more frequent.
  • Summer may become drier but the rainfall events may be more intense.
  • Relative sea levels will rise.
  • Extreme high sea levels will be experienced more frequently.

Rainfall events and sea level rise are likely to have a significant impact on the coast and therefore the surf. While some impacts are to a certain extent predictable, many are not. The possible effects include:

  • An increase in winter rainfall will result in more sewage overflows, increasing the health risk for water users.
  • Increased runoff is likely to increase diffuse pollution from sources such as urban areas and agriculture.
  • Flooding will mobilise pollutants into the marine environment. This cocktail of chemicals and pollutants is likely to pose a significant health risk to water users.
  • A possible net loss of surf resource at the UK’s reef breaks. 20% of the UK’s reef breaks are low tide reef breaks. Predicted sea level rises could reduce the quality or surfability of these waves.
  • Increased erosion at many beaches could impact on many surf breaks.
  • Surf spots are at risk from the building of coastal defence structures.

Climate Change Impacts

Environmental, coastal and wave protection issues

SAS’s Climate Change Report

SAS’s Climate Change Report

SAS’s Climate Change Report examines the possible impacts a changing climate could have on our waves, oceans and beaches, and those that use them for recreation. The report analyses recent scientific evidence on climate change relating to water quality, predicted sea level rises, coastal erosion, storm tracks, water temperature and ocean acidification. It also looks at the emergence of the marine renewables sector as one of the solutions to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Learn more


The 2008 UK Climate Change Act is legislation to ensure the UK reduces its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 (80% below levels in 1990) to help avoid catastrophic climate change. It included the implementation of the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body to monitor the Government's progress on emissions reductions and to set 'carbon budgets'.

Surfers Against Sewage is a member of the Climate Coalition, the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and limiting its impact on the world’s poorest communities. SCC’s combined supporter base reaches more than 11 million people over 100 organisations, from environment and development charities to unions, faith, community and women’s groups. Together we demand practical action by the UK to keep global warming as far as possible below the 2 degrees C danger threshold.

There are many solutions we can all implement in our everyday lives that can help offset these impacts. For more information on these solutions please read our Sustainable Guide to Surfing.