UK weather warning: UK ‘woefully’ unprepared for ‘killer’ heatwaves

The UK has just come out of another record heatwave which saw the longest stretch of daytime temperatures above 30C since 1976, as well as the hottest August day (36.4C) since 2003. And with the planet getting warmer, the UK is no exception to climate change.

One of the major issues is, however, that the UK is typically a cooler country, and as such much of the infrastructure is not built for a hot climate.

Scientists believe by 2070, temperatures in the UK will have risen by 5C.

This could lead to a “dauntic public health crisis” for the UK, according to Chloe Brimicombe, PhD candidate in climate change and health at the University of Reading, who stated: “For every 1C above a daily average temperature in the summer months, the UK currently sees a two percent rise in the death rate.”

Ms Brimicombe wrote in The Conversation: “Up to 5,000 people could die each year as a result of heat in the UK by 2050.

“Elsewhere, longer and hotter heatwaves are likely to wreak havoc on infrastructure built in a cooler past.

“Railway tracks will buckle, bridges will sag and reservoirs could dry up.

“More than 300 households in West Sussex went without water for five days this summer.”

Despite all this, Ms Brimicombe argues, the UK authorities are not doing enough to prepare for the seemingly inevitable future.

For example, the Met Office does not issue a warning for heatwaves in the same way it does for rain, wind or snow.

For example, warnings are only issued in England from June 1 to September 15 each year.

But as the planet warms, the potential for heatwaves to come earlier or later grows.

As such, this is contributing to a rising death toll around heatwaves.

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Although there are no official figures for this year, the three heatwaves of 2019 led to 892 deaths.

Ms Brimicombe continued: “Overheating occurs in 20 percent of UK homes during a normal summer and it can lead to potentially fatal heat stroke.

“This is the cause of most preventable heatwave deaths and it demands an adaptation plan from the government that includes retrofitting homes and building new housing that doesn’t overheat.

“Workplaces also need a legal maximum temperature at which people can stop working during bouts of extreme heat.

“In Latin America, working throughout heatwaves has been linked to kidney disease.

“Heatwaves will continue to grow in intensity, duration and frequency without action on climate change.

“An emergency response once one has been declared is not enough.

“As extreme heat becomes routine, we must adapt our homes, roads and other infrastructure to save lives.”

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