Scientists have found that the likelihood of deadly 40C temperatures occurring within the UK is ‘rapidly accelerating’ as a result of the climate emergency.
Unless carbon emissions are cut to zero, scorching heat will become a regular occurrence within the next 100 years.
Heatwaves within the UK are already 30 times more likely as a result of global heating. From 2016 to 2019, 3400 early deaths were caused by extreme temperatures.
The highest ever temperature on record within the UK was 38.7C measured in July 2019 in Cambridge. The hottest summer on record was the summer of 2018.
As it stands, recording a temperature of 40C is expected once every few hundred years. However, this could occur as often as every 15 years if carbon emissions are cut by less than the 1.5C limits agreed in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
If emissions continue without changing, a temperature of 40C will be recorded somewhere in the UK every 3.5 years. The new analysis suggests that by 2050, London will have the same climate as present-day Istanbul, with Leeds and Edinburgh having the climates of present-day Melbourne and Paris respectively.
The south and south-east regions of the country will be most affected by rising temperatures, as other regions can benefit from the cooling impact of the Atlantic ocean.
Nikolaos Christidis was the lead author on the study which was published in the Nature Communications journal. Christidis said that ‘the rate of change is remarkable’.
“Last year, we had the record temperature in the UK and [Public Health England] reported spikes in mortality,” said Christidis. “When these kinds of events happen, we have detrimental impacts to our transport infrastructure, agricultural catastrophes and water shortages. We need to reduce our vulnerability to these kinds of impacts.”
The University of Leeds’ Prof Piers Forster, who was not involved in the study, said: “Heatwaves are a real risk to life in the UK, especially if we do not begin modifying our homes, workplaces and hospitals to manage their expected overheating.
“However, we should note that in terms of heatwaves, the UK will get off lightly compared with most other nations. Heatwaves in the major crop-growing regions of the world could have more profound effects, both globally and for the UK.”
According to the Committee on Climate Change, who are the official climate advisers to the government, the UK is ‘poorly prepared for the very serious impacts of climate change’.
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