Croydon is one of the areas at highest risk of being worst affected by the extreme heat, according to research conducted at the University of Manchester for Friends of the Earth.
A national emergency has been declared in “Blowtorch Britain”, after a Red warning for extreme heat was issued for the first time, as the Met Office forecast temperatures could hit 40C – or 104F – in London and the south-east today and tomorrow. If the record-breaking temperatures are reached during the course of today, those worst-hit parts of the country will actually be warmer than the Saharan Desert.
The Met Office’s highest warning means that there is a risk to life.
At midday today, according to Met Office figures, the temperature in Croydon had reached 33C, and was expected to edge up higher still during the afternoon.
And as people prepare for a second week of the heatwave, with the council issuing advice on how to stay cool and healthy, and also to keep a check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours, Croydon has been identified as one of the 30 areas in England most vulnerable to the dangerous health impacts of soaring temperatures.
Croydon and many of the other “at risk” areas have a larger proportion of older people and children, while other risk-increasing aspects includ a lack green space to shelter from the heat, and housing that’s susceptible to overheating, such as high-rise buildings and mobile homes.
Croydon was ranked 17th on the vulnerable list by the Manchest researchers, with 60 “at risk” neighbourhoods identified.
According to the Croydon Climate Action group, health-threatening heatwaves are likely to become more intense due to climate change, putting many more people at risk from dangerous summer temperatures.
Hot weather can place particular strain on the heart and lungs, meaning that the majority of serious illness and deaths caused by extreme heat are respiratory and cardiovascular. Older people, those with pre-existing health conditions and young children, are especially at risk.
In all of the scenarios looked at by the University of Manchester study for Friends of the Earth, the communities set to be most affected by global heating are those with below average carbon footprints – those less responsible for the climate crisis.
The research also found that people of colour are four times more likely to live in areas at high risk of dangerous levels of heat.
The study’s key findings include:
- Even if the world stays on track to meet the global goal to limit warming to 1.5°C, more than 3,000 of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods – more than 6million people – will regularly be exposed to “very hot weather” of 27.5°C for five or more days during the summer months. If temperatures rise by 3°C, then the same areas will be regularly exposed to dangerously hot temperatures of over 30°C.
- Overall, nearly half (48%) of neighbourhoods – or 28million people – in England will be exposed to “very hot weather” at 1.5°C of warming.
- Global temperature rise of 3°C would put 50% of neighbourhoods – or 30million people – at risk of “dangerously hot weather” where temperatures hit 30°C or more for five or more days during summer.
Friends of the Earth is calling for the 3,000 most vulnerable neighbourhoods to be prioritised for publicly-funded adaptation projects and greater efforts to reduce planet-heating greenhouse gases.
“Extreme heatwaves and health alerts are likely to become more frequent and more severe as climate change takes hold, putting children, older people and those with existing health conditions at most risk,” said Connie Muir, of Croydon Climate Action.
“If we want to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, we must accelerate plans to slash the carbon emissions that are heating up our planet.
“More must also be done to help our communities adapt to a warming world, through better housing, greener spaces and an increase in street trees.”
Global temperatures are already 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Under the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015, governments have agreed to limit warming to 1.5°C to avoid catastrophic climate change.
According to estimates based on current climate pledges, the world is heading towards 2.4°C of warming, but even these commitments are not being met.
The UK government’s advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, estimates that only two-fifths of the policies in its Net Zero Strategy are credible.
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