Urging the UK Government for Immediate Action: Heatwaves Could Push to a 'Breaking Point
A report released today has cautioned that should the UK experience a recurrence of last summer's heatwaves, first responders, the healthcare system, transportation networks, and energy providers could all reach their limit.
The Place-Based Climate Action Network (PCAN) and the British Red Cross conducted a study that determined that should extreme heat persist or become hotter during 2022, the responses to such conditions would have been less successful.
Those taking part in the study from local government, emergency personnel, utility providers, and the transportation sector expressed concern that England is not prepared for the possibility of multiple and more frequent disasters of equal or greater intensity and duration, a situation that climate change is increasingly making more probable.
In July 2022, the UK experienced its highest-ever recorded maximum temperatures, reaching over 40C. As a result, more than 2,800 deaths were recorded among the 65+ age group and over 3,270 fatalities occurred overall. This is the most significant number of excess deaths during periods of extreme heat since the Heatwave Plan was implemented in England in 2004.
Recent studies suggest that the planet will likely experience 1.5C of warming over the next five years, and approximately one-fifth of the world's projected population by 2100 is expected to experience "hazardous" average temperatures. Therefore, the possibility of dangerous heatwaves and other unpredictable weather conditions will likely increase in the upcoming years.
On the first day of meteorological summer, a report called attention to the need for governments and local authorities to take action to increase the UK's resistance to heatwaves. It recommended updating heatwave policies and guidance, developing local, regional and national plans of action for extreme heat, and preventing public budget cuts.
The report further requests that the government take action to boost public awareness, instruction and involvement and identify and examine the effects of vulnerable populations on the issue of heat-related disadvantage and fragility.
Candice Howarth, co-director of PCAN and head of the local climate action at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, emphasized that since the UK does not have any previous experience adapting to excessive heat, it has to become now a priority for governments, organizations, cities and the public.
Based on our findings, the government must adopt a unified approach to handling high temperatures in the United Kingdom. Making modifications to the recently released UKHSA Adverse Weather and Health plan is not enough - they must also explore what other effects this kind of weather can have on the nation's economy, public services, and other areas of life if we want to prevent fatalities, disruptions, and other issues from occurring in the future.
Murtagh from the British Red Cross, who serves as the UK climate adaptation lead, noted that although people may enjoy periods of heat, the destruction it can bring is often overlooked.
The summer of last year experienced some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in the UK, which significantly affected the people living there, she added, noting that there were also droughts and wildfires in many areas. She continued that the summary being referred to emphasized the need to improve the way information and knowledge are shared to help individuals and communities prepare for and manage heat-related risks.
It is essential to be prepared for potential future heatwaves, and the best way to do this is through comprehensive planning, preparation, and swift action involving collaboration between voluntary and community groups, local government, and the general populace. As the research has made clear, we must act without delay. Every individual is capable of helping the UK prepare for and manage the risk of heat.
Just last week, the National Drought Group appealed to the government, regulators, and water suppliers to join forces and begin preparing to ensure the nation does not face a lack of water this summer.
Figures from the Climate Change Committee state that if livestock farms are not assisted in adjusting to the changing environment and methods of operation, the UK agricultural sector could suffer job losses ranging from 7,000 to 42,000.
This year, the government plans to revise its plan for adapting to climate change. In response to the study from the current day, a Cabinet Office representative emphasized that the government and emergency services are "well-prepared" for any heatwaves to come.
In response to the scorching summer temperatures last year, the government has been actively finding and carrying out lessons learnt, they declared in a press statement. As part of this, the UK Health Security Agency released the Adverse Weather and Health Plan, which provides advice for dealing with extreme heat and details how the public and government can cooperate to tackle heatwaves.