With a RED Weather Alert, as everyone reaches for another ice lolly and portable fans start to sell out, we wonder if records will be broken today.
But it’s only two days. Just two days of hot sunny weather, leading many people to ask what is all the fuss about? We know we’ve had lovely holidays abroad in the 30s, and that the 1970s were idyllic ‘perfect summers’ – yes there was a heatwave but ‘no-one panicked’.
The thing is, our memories aren’t great
The current UK peak heat record was set in Cambridge in 2019, at 38.4 degrees Celsius.
Yesterday (Monday 18 July 2022), Cambridge had the highest temperature so far this year at 35 degrees. Today Charlwood, Surrey, hit 39.1° – a new U.K. record. Last night a new Overnight Low record was made, with temperatures not dropping below 25°.
For the first time ever, 40 Celsius has provisionally been exceeded in the UK. London Heathrow reported a temperature of 40.2°C at 12:50 today.
And the day isn’t yet over…
Yet I keep hearing older people dismiss this weather event as ‘nothing special.’ Whilst drought ravaged crops, emergency standpipes provided drinking water, and vulnerable people died, so many now say they “thrived” during that endless summer.
The heatwave of 1976 was 10 weeks in the high 20s. The average temperature for June, July and August 1976 was 17.77. There were 15 days higher than 30 somewhere in England, and five days of 35. The highest temperature peaked at 35.9, recorded in Cheltenham, 3 July 1976.
We’ve had official heatwaves in 1995 (driest on record), 1997, 2003 (an extra 2000 people died in the UK, 14,800 excess deaths in France), 2006, 2018 (2600 excess deaths), 2020 and 2022, but older people, indeed the national psyche, always refers back to 1976 with nostalgia.
Holidays though, we all take holidays to hot places!
Some people like to holiday in hot climates, where the infrastructure is set up with cleverly-designed buildings, air conditioning, pools and afternoon rests, but many do not.
The elderly, many people with health conditions and young children are not as able to regulate their body temperature. Think of the 950,000 people living with dementia, many not able to comprehend the dangers and unable to help themselves. The cost-of-living crisis adds to the worry, making running fans and air conditioning more expensive, even if people already own them.
Sensible advice is to limit activity outside, cover up, drink plenty, keep doors and windows covered (cardboard works well to block the sun’s rays), and only open them when it’s cooler outside than in. Some of this is ‘common sense’ but with many having to work in conditions ‘hotter than Satan’s armpit’ in nursing home kitchens, in full PPE on wards or out in the sun fixing burst water pipes, it isn’t always possible.
This is unprecedented weather. Don’t be fooled by those with rose-tinted memories.
The deputy prime minister has been saying people should just “enjoy the sunshine”. Kit Malthouse who is temporarily chairing Cobra’s emergency meeting suggests those of us living in the Midlands and London should “go to the beaches to be cooler”. A two hour drive without air-con sounds unpleasant, and anyway, the Government says children should remain in school…
Conversely, former government chief scientist Sir David King has warned of up to 10,000 excess deaths from heat this week.
So why the warnings?
Due to unusual wind patterns hot air is coming from the equator, meaning the Midlands are predicted to still be at 27 at 3am on Tuesday morning! Without a chance to naturally cool down and our bodies to reset, people will be more susceptible to heat exhaustion from the continuing and building heat. That is why the RED warning has been issued, for the first time ever.
Last week most weather analysis systems began predicting record breaking heat. Even if it doesn’t actually happen, we must ask what is making the data look like this?
The answer has to be global climate change. From the diverse and wide data these systems use, when the computer modelling can’t do anything else but come to this conclusion, climate crisis is here.
Official advice includes ‘parking further from work’, whilst just ten cruise ships create as much pollution as all the cars in Europe.
We are encouraged to rinse our plastics for recycling them into another countries’ problem. But just 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of all world pollution.
We turn off gadgets, but use wi-fi plugs that are always on, whilst mass storage units save every bite of data ever typed on the internet…
We limit our oven usage, and buy food that’s quicker to cook and are reassured that our forced frugality is better against climate change. Yet energy companies are making record profits, and investment in renewable energy is deemed ‘’too costly (compared to what – a comfortable future?).
We are told to take shorter showers, whilst forced to flush with drinking water, as the privatised water companies sit on huge profits, not mending gushing holes and allowing ever increasing pollution into our life-supporting rivers and seas.
THIS is global government greenwashing. Making YOU feel bad about driving to the park, as they do less than the bare minimum, and demand even less from big business.
I don’t know the answers. But since my GCSE tech project making a drinks can sorting machine, way back on the other side of the Millennium, I’ve been waiting for the adults in charge to take charge.
Instead they bicker and embarrass themselves. They fight over petty nonsense, they fail to do their daily job of running this county well, and they actively campaign against clean water, less pollution, global reductions in emissions and greener power.
Our parents’ generation ignored the warnings, successive governments ignored the urgency or undid sensible actions of their predecessors. Once voted in they prioritise their own personal wealth instead of public benefit or planetary stability. Economic crisis will become global catastrophe, more people will flee barren lands meaning more migrants and scarcer resources globally.
Our country could do better, our ‘leaders’ are dragging us down. I don’t know if we can stop coming disaster, but it’s in their power to try. Our governments’ choices are creating climate catastrophe. Yet we keep voting them in.
Remember, summer is a season, the climate is changing. The average summer temp in the UK is 18 degrees Celsius.