Heat-related deaths could triple in the UK by 2050 unless urgent efforts to tackle climate change are made, the country’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) warned on Wednesday.
Met Office projections show that the UK is expected to experience summers with extreme heat every other year by 2050. The CCC reported “the number of heat-related deaths could more than triple from today’s level in the absence of additional adaptation, from around 2,000 per year to around 7,000.”
“People in the UK are already at risk of illness and death from high temperatures, particularly those with existing heart and respiratory conditions. There were more than 2,500 heat-related deaths during the 2020 heatwave in England, higher than at any time since records began in 2003,” the committee wrote.
The assessment on heat deaths is one of several areas of concern highlighted in the committee’s report, which concluded that global warming is outpacing the country’s efforts to adapt to climate change, and that the impacts on the country are likely to be worse than earlier predicted.
Red flags in the report included the country’s average land temperatures, which have increased by around 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, sea level rises of 16 centimeters since 1900, and more frequent episodes of extreme heat.
It warns of more severe heatwaves, heavy rainfall and flooding, and urges better climate change resilience to be considered in the building of new homes and infrastructure.
“Since the CCC’s last assessment 5 years ago, over 570,000 new homes have been built that are not resilient to future high temperatures and since 2018 over 4,000 heat-related deaths have been recorded in England,” the committee said in a press release.
The chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee, Julia King, said that these threats would not simply disappear. Some are already “locked in,” King said, even if the country achieved net-zero carbon emissions, the condition when the the same amount of greenhouse gas emitted is recovered from the atmosphere. The UK, along with the US and several of their political allies, are targeting net zero by 2050.
“By better understanding and preparing for the coming changes, the UK can prosper, protecting its people, its economy, and its natural environment,” King said.
The committee urged all of the UK to take action and build resilience in a number of key risk areas within the next two years, including risks to: land and sea ecosystems; human health in overheated homes; crops, livestock and commercial trees; and the supply of food, goods and vital services that could be impacted by a climate-related collapse of supply chains.