UK is no longer a cold country and must adapt to the heat, say climatologists | Climate crisis
The UK is no longer a cold country, scientists have said, as the worsening climate means ‘previously impossible heat waves are killing people’.
This week temperatures of 40C (104F) were first predicted by the Met Office, but climate models show these weather events are set to become more frequent.
Climate scientists have called on the UK to adapt quickly to extreme heat or risk thousands of excess deaths.
This includes the government developing a specific strategy against heat risk, updating the housing stock and ensuring that new construction can cool down in hot weather.
Bob Ward, director of policy and communications at LSE’s Grantham Institute, said: “The current Prime Minister has ignored repeated calls to create a national heat risk strategy which would engage all relevant departments to tackle the growing threat heat waves.”
He hit out at commentators and MPs who said those who fear heatwaves are ‘snowflakes’. Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs, said over the weekend that the heat warnings were evidence of a ‘loose new world’, adding: ‘It is no surprise that in the Great Britain snowflakes, snowflakes are melting. Fortunately, most of us aren’t snowflakes.
Ward replied: “In the UK media in recent days, some have claimed that the growing attention to the dangers of heatwaves is a sign of declining British resilience. But such displays of insensitivity in the face of Hundreds of preventable deaths only underscore the challenge we face in coping with the growing risks of climate change.
“It’s time for the UK to stop thinking of itself only as a cold country, where every summer sunburn is celebrated as an opportunity for beach visits and ice cream. Heat waves are deadly extreme weather events that will worsen for at least the next 30 years. We need to adapt and better protect ourselves, especially those most vulnerable to hot weather. »
Scientists have urged governments to work quickly to phase out fossil fuels and reach net zero emissions to prevent the situation from becoming more deadly.
Dr Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute, said: “Climate change is driving this heat wave, just as it is driving every heat wave now. Greenhouse gas emissions, from burning fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil, make heat waves hotter, longer lasting and more frequent. Heat waves that were rare before are now common; once impossible heat waves are now happening and killing people.
“Heat waves will continue to get worse until greenhouse gas emissions are halted. The longer it takes for the world to reach net zero emissions, the hotter and more dangerous heat waves will be, and the more frequent and long-lasting they will be. The only way to prevent heat records from being broken time and time again is to stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.”
Dr Eunice Lo, a climatologist at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, said: “The climate has warmed considerably since 1976. We have a record dating back to 1884 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 2002.
“Previously unthinkable temperatures are now happening. This has never happened before; it is unprecedented. There is no comparison with 1976 – this record was already broken in 2019. There is a good chance of breaking it again in the next few days. By definition, these are new extremes.
Meteorologists announced the news of the scorching heat with dismay. “We were hoping not to come to this, but for the first time we are predicting a temperature above 40C in the UK,” said Met Office climate attribution scientist Dr Nikos Christidis.
He added: “Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of extreme temperatures in the UK. The chances of seeing 40C days in the UK could be up to 10 times more likely in the current climate than in a natural climate unaffected by human influence. The likelihood of exceeding 40C anywhere in the UK in any given year has also risen rapidly and, even with current promises to cut emissions, such extremes could occur every 15 years in the climate of 2100.
It looks like the threat of extreme heat won’t be over this week. Professor Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading, said: “My understanding is that we hope to see temperatures go back down in a few days, but there is a risk that temperatures will rise again in a week or so, which for the UK and Europe is very worrying.
“There is a high risk of further heat waves across the world for the rest of the summer and we will be monitoring this very closely.”