Extreme heat preparedness and resilience in the UK
The 21st century is the warmest on record and in July 2022, the UK declared a national emergency following the Met Office’s first ever red warning for extreme heat. Temperatures peaked at 40.3C on 19 July 2022, 1.6C higher than the previous maximum temperature, recorded in 2019.
The UK is unprepared to deal with the consequences of extreme heat and society lacks the ability to prepare and adapt to this crisis. It is a ‘risk multiplier’, with potential to cause further cascading shocks in the form of fire, crop damage and drought – yet in the UK, there is insufficient research into these effects and an unsatisfactory policy response. This is reflected in a lack of understanding or practical measures to help people remain safe in their homes, and buildings that are poorly adapted to cope with high temperatures, particularly in cities. As the UK will experience warmer summers and increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves, this is a problem that will continue to grow.
Dr Candice Howarth is leading a team of experts at the Grantham Institute’s work to analyse current and future ways in which the UK can better prepare for periods of extreme heat. Recent projects include:
Collecting time-sensitive data in the immediate aftermath of the 2022 UK heatwaves, funded by the LSE Urgency Fund and in collaboration with the British Red Cross. This project collected time-sensitive data on responses to heatwaves, in the immediate aftermath of the 2022 UK heatwaves to overcome barriers to inclusive resilience to extreme heat in the UK. We will explore the national, regional and city scales affected by the 2022 heatwaves (e.g. Yorkshire & Humber, London, Manchester, Edinburgh) to address the following objectives:
- To collect and map experiences, perceptions, decision-making processes and prioritisation of strategies on heat during the 2022 summer heatwave events;
- To assess whether existing UK policies were successful/insufficient in the 2022 extreme heat events and whether they are adequate if the UK is to experience more 40+ degree days;
- To contribute timely data to ongoing policy discussions (e.g. heat risk solution pathways, UK heatwave plan) on how to overcome adaptation barriers and integrate responses to heat risk.
Developing a Culture of Heat: Informing responses to heat risk in the UK, funded by the LSE and in collaboration with the British Red Cross and Met Office. The project will bring together stakeholders from the public, private and third sectors to work on improving short-term resilience by strengthening preparedness and responses to extreme heat events and integrating longer-term adaptation action to address the threat of more frequent and intense extreme heat events in the UK. The project will:
- Establish a multi-sector partnership of stakeholders that are impacted by or play a role in responding to extreme heat events.
- Deliver a series of events to further understand local needs and opportunities, co-produce new evidence, build stakeholder capacity, and identify opportunities to collaborate.
- Analyse primary data capturing social perceptions and responses to extreme heat events.
- Co-produce a set of outputs detailing priorities for policy, research and practice at the local and regional level.
Changing behavioral responses to heat risk in a warming world: How can communication approaches be improved? WIREs Climate Change
News and commentaries
Summer 2022 heatwaves killed 61,000 people in Europe New Scientist, 10 July 2023