England will suffer devastating floods like the ones that submerged parts of Germany this summer if the country fails to protect itself against more severe weather brought on by climate change, a government agency said Wednesday.

“It is adapt or die,” the head of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, said in a statement accompanying a new climate change report.

The report warned of rising sea levels, increased river flows and significant strains on England’s public water supply amid soaring global temperatures associated with the changing climate. It urged the government, businesses and broader society to engage in adaptation and mitigation strategies, “rather than living with the costs of inaction.”

“Some 200 people died in this summer’s flooding in Germany. That will happen in this country sooner or later … unless we also make the places where we live, work and travel resilient to the effects of the more violent weather the climate emergency is bringing,” Boyd said.

People who never considered themselves at risk from climate change are waking up to floods and fires. (Monica Rodman/The Washington Post)

According to the agency, even with a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature rise compared with preindustrial levels, summer rainfall is expected to decrease while winter rainfall is expected to increase over the next several decades. Some 3 million properties in England are at risk of surface water flooding in places where no early warnings are available.

“The Environment Agency alone cannot protect everyone from increasing flood and coastal risks. … We must help communities learn to live with risk, minimize damage and return to normal life quickly,” the report said, adding that “the required scale and urgency of national action is daunting.”

Britain is hosting the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit next month in Glasgow, Scotland, where adapting to “protect communities” against climate change is one of the conference’s four key goals.

But with much of the world’s focus on reducing emissions, Boyd said she is worried that adaptation will take a back seat at the summit.

“It is deeply worrying that adaptation is in danger of being grievously undercooked at COP26. Not by the UK Government, but by the world at large,” she said.

“Significant climate impacts are inevitable,” she said. “But we are running out of time to implement effective adaptation measures. Our thinking must change faster than the climate.”

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