The costs to the UK of flooding could rise to billions of pounds a year in the coming decades, according to the first national assessment of the risks of climate change.
The UK will also face threats including water shortages, more droughts and diseases such as red band needle blight which could hit the timber industry in the next century, the assessment conducted for the Government showed.
However, the changing climate will bring some opportunities to the UK, including the chance to grow new crops and even the possibility of more tourism as temperatures get milder.
Higher temperatures could see up to 5,900 more people dying as a result of hot summers, but thousands of cold-related deaths - between 3,900 and 24,000 - are likely to be avoided in winter by the 2050s, the research shows.
The £2.8 million project, a legal requirement under the Climate Change Act, highlights 100 threats the UK could face from global warming if no further steps, such as a new flood defences, were taken to cope with the changing climate.
The study revealed the high risk flooding poses, with the costs of floods potentially rising from current levels of £1.2 billion a year to between £1.5 billion and £3.5 billion by the 2020s, and £2.1 billion to £12 billion by the 2080s for England and Wales.
Insurance and the provision of mortgages could come under threat from more frequent floods, while the risk of significant flooding to homes and even people's mental health will be an increasingly serious issue. Other risks include increasing demand for irrigation of crops, more invasive species, damage to nature, the loss of agricultural land to coastal erosion, and a loss of staff hours due to overheated office buildings.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "This world class research provides the most comprehensive case yet on why we need to take action to adapt the UK and our economy to the impacts of climate change. It shows what life would be like if we stopped our preparations now, and the consequences such a decision would mean for our economic stability."
Lord Krebs, chairman of the group which advises the Government on adapting to climate change, said: "Without an effective plan to prepare for the risks from climate change the country may sleep walk into disaster. This report represents an important step in the process and demonstrates why the UK needs to take action to adapt now."
Responding to the report, the Government outlined existing policies it already has in place to tackle present and future climate issues, including £2.1 billion spending on flood defences and coastal erosion over the next four years, although it has reduced spending on flooding, and the England heatwave plan.
© 2012 Press Association