"This is World War Three - this is the biggest challenge to face the globe for many, many years. We need the sorts of concerted, fast, integrated and above all huge efforts that went into many actions in times of war. "We're dealing with this as if it is peacetime, but the time for peace on climate change is gone - we need to be seeing this as a crisis and emergency," she said.
Lady Young was quoted by the Telegraph as saying at the conference that Britain would face more droughts, flooding, coastal erosion and loss of biodiversity as the climate altered. She called for implementing measures such as improving the resilience of existing homes to flooding, not building on floodplains and improving water use efficiency.
Rising sea levels and coastal erosion threatened 130 billion pounds worth of property around the coast, with the elderly and poor communities most vulnerable, and seaside settlements must have help adapting, she said. Criticising the proposed Severn Barrage project - which could generate nearly five per cent of the UK's electricity through renewables at the cost of the internationally-important wildlife sites in the estuary, she said it was like looking for paper to write on and "reaching for the Mona Lisa".
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, who also spoke on the occasion, warned that global warming was a challenge to security, migration, politics and economics as well as the environment. Responding to a query as to whether Britain needed to spend 42 per cent of its budget on climate change as the US did on the war in World War Two, Robert Watson, chief scientist of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said tackling climate change required will, and was possible at relatively little cost.
He said that as the century progressed, people would be fighting for water, and increasing numbers would be refugees of environmental catastrophes. "This is not just an environmental challenge. It's also a security challenge, a migration challenge, a political challenge and an economic challenge as well," he said.