In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, researchers predicted that the number of deaths in the United Kingdom that result from hot weather will soar by 257 percent over the next 40 years. The researchers belonged to Public Health England (PHE) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Elderly people are most at risk
Elderly people will be at the greatest risk, as was evident from the large number of elderly people among the 70,000 victims of the 2003 heat wave in Europe, the hottest summer since at least 1540. The United Kingdom’s elderly population is growing due to better medical care. The Office for National Statistics believes that elderly people will be nine percent of the UK population by 2080, compared to two percent today.
What’s going to happen
The study examined weather patterns and death rates from 1993 to 2006. It was found that deaths increased by 2.1 percent for every 34°F (1°C) rise in temperature and two percent for every fall by this amount. The British Atmospheric Data Centre expects that the number of hot days – 68°F/20°C or more – will triple by 2080 and the number of cold days will fall, although by a lesser amount. There are currently around 41,000 extra deaths in winter and 2,000 heat-related deaths in summer.
Hence, unless action is taken against climate change, the number of heat-related deaths will rise by 66 percent in the 2020s, 257 percent by the 2050s and 535 percent by the 2080s. Cold-related deaths will increase by three percent in the 2020s before decreasing by two percent in the 2050s and 12 percent in the 2080s. This would give us about 12,500 heat-related deaths and 36,500 cold-related deaths by 2080.
Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis, who heads the PHE’s Air Pollution and Climate Change Group and was a co-author of the paper, elucidated that higher temperatures place greater stress on the body and air pollution aggravates the symptoms of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions.
What you’ll have to do
Looking forward, people will have to wear lighter clothing and ensure that they remain hydrated even if they don’t feel thirsty. The study affirmed that air conditioning in Blighty will become more common, although poorer people will have less unless it’s subsidised and rising fuel prices will worsen the situation. Passive cooling options such as building orientation, planting more trees, insulation and choice of construction materials could be just as effective.
Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”