Community health

12 Million British lives threatened by heatwaves

By - Integrated Care Journal

12 Million British lives threatened by heatwaves

Future heatwaves threaten the health of 12 million people in the UK, a report published last week by the Climate Coalition has warned.

According to the report, those most at risk of future summer heatwaves are elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

Although the report focuses on the future impact of heatwaves, it is worth mentioning that heatwaves already pose a great danger to the health of millions. According to the World Health Organization, a European heatwave in 2003 caused over 70,000 deaths.

The report found that 2020 was Britain’s third-hottest on record. It also estimates that heatwaves last year have led to more than 2,500 deaths.

“The UK is considered to be among the most vulnerable countries in the world to the health effects of heat, based on population factors, including ageing, the prevalence of chronic disease and rate of urbanization, with deaths projects to double to 5,000 a year by 2050,” the report states.

Clara Goldsmith from the Climate Coalition, which brings together 140 organisations, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation: "We need to tackle climate change, the root cause of it, and we do that by decarbonising our economy, making sure our homes are greener, our transport sector is greener, and that brings with it lots of benefits.

“We need to make the switch to a net-zero economy as soon as possible to make sure that the risks we’re seeing now don’t increase over the years and decades to come. ”

Britain faces a particular health risk from heatwaves due to its large elderly and vulnerable population, the report notes that heat-related deaths among the over-65s had risen by 21 per cent between 2004 and 2018. The report also states that in 2020 the UK experienced 16 so-called 'tropical nights' when the temperature remained above 20C, which has historically been a rare occurrence.

According to the report, flooding is also a threat to the health of the nation. The report found that about 1.8 million people in the UK are living in areas at significant risk of flooding and number could increase to 2.6 million in as little as 17 years. The knock-on effects of flooding go deeper than water damage with flood victims four times more likely to suffer mental health problems than those unaffected by flooding. One in three flood victims suffers from PTSD.

Major storms and flooding events are projected to become increasingly commonplace in many parts of the UK, underscored by Storm Christoph last month in parts of England and Wales, which caused huge damage and forced some people to flee their homes.

In Pentre in Shropshire, Mark Cuthbert-Brown has been flooded three times in 11 months, speaking to Sky News he said: "It's physically hard work, it's utterly exhausting if one knows that the water is coming you lift everything, and I did this year, in the days before the flood almost everything was safe from the water. ”

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive of World Wildlife Fund, a member of The Climate Coalition said: “our mental and physical health are linked to the health of the one place we all call home: our planet”.

The report also highlights Britain’s role in a greener future, arguing that Britain was the first G7 country to set in law a net-zero emissions target by 2050. As the government also said in December it would commit to a more ambitious 2030 emissions cut, as it sought to show climate leadership ahead of hosting COP26.

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