Comment on new figures for heatwave deaths during summer 2019

Greenwich Park in London during a summer heatwave (Credit: istock/phaustov)

Commenting on the publication today (Tuesday 7 January 2020) by Public Health England of ‘PHE heatwave mortality monitoring: Summer 2019’, Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“This analysis shows a total of 892 people aged 65 and over died in England as a result of three periods of heatwave conditions in England during summer 2019. There was a large peak in deaths around 25 July, during which the hottest UK daytime temperature was recorded at Cambridge Botanic Gardens. Taking into account previous analyses, a total of 3441 older people have been killed in England by summer heatwave conditions since 2016. Previous Met Office research has shown that the frequency of heatwaves in England is increasing due to climate change.

“Tragically, many of these deaths are likely to have been preventable. Previous research has shown that many of the people who are killed by heatwave conditions die in their own homes or in care homes that overheat. The Committee on Climate Change pointed out in July 2019 in its most recent progress report to Parliament that the Government has failed to set out a coherent plan for implementing the adaptations required for existing or new homes to be safe and habitable in increasing temperatures. It also warned that the Government does not have a plan to address the lack of understanding of the extent of overheating risks in care facilities or how a move towards home-based care may alter the risks to patients and healthcare delivery from extreme weather. The Committee also noted that although there has been a heatwave plan for England since 2004, there is no evidence that it has reduced the number of deaths that occur during hot weather.

“The Government needs to act on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and take much more seriously the dangers of hot weather. The threat of deadly heatwaves is growing due to climate change and the death toll is likely to rise unless there is strong action to protect those who are most vulnerable to hot weather.”

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (http://www.lse.ac.uk/grantham) was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (http://www.granthamfoundation.org/).
  2. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (http://www.cccep.ac.uk/) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.

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