Two days ago, the UK experienced the hottest temperatures ever recorded here. A new record was set in Conningsby, Lincolnshire on Tuesday: an unprecedented 40.3 degrees.
We then saw an already stretched NHS struggling to cope, transport disruptions - and very sadly, people are thought to have died as a result. In tonight’s programme, presented by Laura Tobin, we hear from people around the country about the challenges the heatwave posed for them - from firefighters to care home managers. And we hear how these extreme weather events could be more common in the future.
The Met Office has predicted that if we carry on the current trajectory, by the end of the century, the UK could see 40C days every three to four years.
It’s a sobering thought, echoed by Dr Friederike Otto, one of the world’s leading climate scientists based at Imperial College London:
“What used to be a one in a hundred year heat event is now happening every other year…If we continue to burn fossil fuels, temperatures will continue to rise, climate change is not a problem of the future, climate change is happening here and now and costing lives and having huge economic costs.”
In this current wave of hot weather 13 people have died after getting into difficulty in open water - and it’s believed that heat-related excess deaths could number in the hundreds, if not thousands. On Tuesday, firefighters tackled multiple wildfires - including one in Wennington, East London, which destroyed dozens of homes.
Neil Taylor, Area Manager at Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service, explained how tinder dry conditions pose a serious fire risk - and often there’s a common cause for the blazes they tackle in summer:
“Disposable barbecues are probably one of the highest causes of grass blazes. We would strongly urge people not to use them.. We've had wildfires in Lancashire that have gone on for weeks and it's highly likely they've started from disposable barbecues.”
Meanwhile in Kent, reporter Laura Tobin spoke with Douglas Whitfield, Operations Director at South East Water, who issued a plea for us to be sensible with our water consumption this summer amid ‘record demand’.
And future prospects seem bleak. Last month the Wildlife Trusts published a major study on how climate change is affecting nature here in the UK. Head of Policy Elliot Chapman Jones told the programme:
“By 2050, over 50% of [reserves in the UK] could be at risk of extreme wildfires. For more than 30 days a year, many more will experience extreme amounts of drought. And that puts the wildlife on those sites, the wildlife that call those places home under an extreme amount of pressure.”
This latest heatwave has prompted many to demand that more action is taken to halt climate change, before it is irreversible.
NHS Advice - How to Cope in Hot Weather
Lancs Fire and Rescue - Stay safe as the heatwave hits
Grantham Institute for Climate Change - Advice and research on combating climate change
RSPCA Advice - Animal Welfare in Summer
Wildlife Trusts Changing Nature Report - July 2022