We are all painfully aware of the heatwave that has struck the UK in the last week as we have all struggled to cope with the record high temperatures. This heatwave has brought to mind, for those old enough, the record breaking summer of 1976 and has led some people to believe that we are overreacting about the severity of this heat wave and its climate consequences and that the Met office is creating unnecessary ‘hysteria’, since it's been happening for nearly half a century. But what we are experiencing now, is not the same as what happened then.
Here are 5 reasons why the heatwave of 1976 is different to 2022;
In 1976 excess deaths across the two month period as a whole stood at 700 according to ONS data, and the 1976 heatwave is said to have been the cause of 20% ‘excess deaths’. In 2003, the heat wave that struck Europe, hitting France especially hard, had a death toll of over 70,000 people which was a 59% ‘excess death’, which is nearly a 40% increase in ‘excess deaths’ since 1976. The true impact of the 2022 heatwave may not be fully understood for a couple more weeks but a professor at UCL, Ilan Kleman stated that “once temperatures reach over 37 degrees the death toll begins to increase” and that “The heatwave was extremely serious, there was the potential for very high death rates”. Although it is currently unclear what the percentage increase in death rates was over the last few weeks, it can be assumed that once the data has been collected the increase in deaths will be higher than that of the 1976 heatwave demonstrating that the heatwaves severity have increased and need to be taken significantly more seriously
Scientists are not 100% sure of the 1976 heatwave but they do believe it may have been a result of a change in the jet stream that dictates our weather. But this current heatwave is part of a bigger shift in our climate, it is one of the clearest signs of human influence on our environment. The Met office says that this heatwave has been made ten times more likely because of climate change. It is the greenhouse gasses that we release that are trapping in the sun's heat and warming the surface of the earth that led to the worrying situation we are now in.
There is one single solution to this problem; change.
We cannot continue to live the way we do, we have to change our carbon habits, it has to be a daily effort to reduce, avoid and offset or extreme weather, like this UK heatwave will become the normal.
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