Climate change expert warns: Storm Desmond will return

Flooding on the scale of Storm Desmond last winter is likely to happen again, a climate change expert has warned.

Ashley Cooper, who has spent 13 years travelling the world to document the impact of climate change, says that communities in Cumbria and elsewhere in Britain – and the world – need to be on alert for more devastation.

Cooper, a professional photographer who is based in the Lake District, says that flooding is one of the most visible signs of climate change, and is starting to affect communities that had thought they were safe.

“All the computer models show that as the earth warms, the weather will get more severe and less predictable,” he warns. “Some places will get less rain and suffer drought, others will get more leading to catastrophic flooding. Even if annual rainfall totals in some areas remain the same, they will probably suffer greater flooding. This is because the rainfall will be less spread out throughout the year, but more intense. These rainfall events of greater intensity will inevitably lead to more frequent flooding.”

The November 2009 floods in Cumbria caused  £millions worth of damage, This house in Keswick next to the River Greta, collpased after it was undermined by the flood waters.

House in Keswick next to the River Greta collapsed after it was undermined by  flood water

And he warns: “I passionately believe that climate change is the biggest threat that humanity has ever faced.”

An exhibition of his photographs highlighting the impact of climate change across the globe will open in Grasmere next month. Images from a Warming Planet at the Heaton Cooper Studio will see a book  of the same name published simultaneously.

The opening of the exhibition will mark the start of the Kendal Mountain Festival which brings together lovers of the outdoors from across Britain and beyond. The Gallery has featured a series of exhibitions annually to launch the festival, including work by photographer Henry Iddon, and William Heaton Cooper’s drawings of Lakeland crags used in the definitive Fell and Rock Climbing Club climbing guides to the area, and functions as a centre of interpretation of landscape, as well as a showcase for the Heaton Cooper archive.

Ashley Cooper, 54, has amassed world’s largest collection of pictures documenting climate change on every continent, from the Inuit communities of the Arctic to the coral atoll islands of the Pacific Ocean.

His book includes more than 500 dramatic images which, he says, are truly shocking, and a selection of the photos will be on display at the studio; the book – with a foreword by leading environmentalist Jonathon Porritt – will be on sale.

Said Cooper: “I have spent the last 13 years travelling to every continent on the planet to document the impacts of climate change and in that time have probably witnessed more of its impacts than anyone else. The book and this exhibition come from the heart. My images are a wakeup call to show how climate change is already impacting all around the world.”

RNLI and Mountain Rescue volunteers rescuing flood victims from their house on the Main Street of Cockermouth.

RNLI and Mountain Rescue volunteers rescuing flood victims from a house in Cockermouth.

He hopes that the book and the exhibition will prove to be a wake-up call for communities everywhere. “I have tried to look at what we can do to mitigate the worst excesses of climate change and prevent it from happening. I truly believe that this exhibition and book will play a real and significant role in alerting people to the dangers posed and motivate action. Some of the images are shocking, but I have always strived to create original, dramatic and stunning images.”

He added: “You have to remain optimistic otherwise there’s no point continuing. This is an issue about which every one of us can do something to make a difference. We all have a carbon footprint; we are all responsible.”

Images from a Warming Planet will run from Thursday November 17 until the end of the year. Free admission. Open daily, 9-5.30. 015394 35280

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