‘Severe’ heatwave likely by 2017
by David Masters
February 21, 2008
Scientists have warned that there is a one in four chance of a ‘severe’ heatwave coming to the UK by the summer of 2017. If such a heatwave struck, it could potentially kill more than 5,000 people.
The report – ‘Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2007′ – published jointly by the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency, also predicts that there is a one in forty chance of a severe heatwave hitting the South East of England by 2012.
“In terms of conventional thinking about risks to health,” says the report, “a risk of 1 in 40 is high.”
The report is based on research by independent scientists, who found that the number of deaths of people over 55 rises sharply when average temperatures exceed 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) for a few days in a row. In 2003, an August heatwave caused over 2,000 deaths in the UK.
It also found that UK pollution is on the rise, which could cause up to 1,500 deaths. The report states: “Though concentrations of a number of important pollutants are likely to decline over the next half-century, the concentration of ozone is likely to increase.
“This will increase attributable deaths and hospital admissions. The increases are likely to be significant.”
Furthermore, warmer summers are expected to increase the number of incidents of skin cancer, and affect drinking water levels.
Recommendations from the report include the Government focusing on the health impacts of climate change, the public taking better notice of health advice in hot weather, and further research into potential health problems caused by climate change.
On a more positive note, the report found that increasing temperatures are likely to reduce the number of deaths in winter, and are not expected to causes increases in the risk diseases such as malaria.
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