The 40° heatwave was no ordinary weather condition for the UK especially for those without an air conditioning unit. Melting runways, burning wildfires, warped roads, and hospitals overheating is the impact of the UK’s unprecedented heatwave.
41 homes were destroyed by fires in London on Britain’s hottest day. Firefighters having the busiest 24hr day ever recorded since the Second World War.
Emergency services had responded over 2,500 calls for help related to the 40° heatwave. A number of these fires are grass fires. Grass was extremely dry as we’ve not had heavy rain in the entire month of July in London.
The London Ambulance Service said they were answering over 300 calls an hour, with numerous patients experiencing heat exposure.
Can people in the UK cope with the rising temperatures and no air conditioning unit?
With rising heat temperatures above 40° degrees and heat records being broken in 29 sites across England.
The UK is not familiar with such high temperatures. In fact, while in many parts of the world, 40 degrees temperatures will be annually quite normal. The UK hasn’t got the infrastructure in this country to deal with such high temperatures.
Hot weather causes strain the power lines that deliver our energy, the water pipes and the roads and railways that we use to travel. As global temperatures continue to rise, national infrastructure will be challenged as never before.
In fact, the UK is an affluent country with the capacity and resources to adapt to warmer temperatures.
However, little to nothing has been done the past ten years to deal with the overheating in buildings. Consequently, increasing the rising risk to critical infrastructure. The country is unprepared to handle temperatures of more than 38C consistently for long periods.
Why are the rising dangerous for the UK?
Researchers predicted that the 40° heatwaves could lead to almost 1,000 deaths in England and Wales.
On average, about 2,000 deaths in England are related to heat waves each year. However this number is expected to rise with the heat temperatures if nothing is done.
Data shows that when it comes to health outcomes, a 40C day in the UK is not the same as a 40C day in other countries. More excess deaths would be expected in London than other countries at the same high temperature.
This is largely because societies adapt to warm environments when they become used to them. Homes with good ventilation or an air conditioning unit and the public being culture being different.
There is evidence that people become physiologically better at dealing with hot environments when acclimatised to them.
During the recent heatwave, whilst the UK struggled to adjust to the 40 degree temperatures, Spain decided to restrict AC usage. Spain announced new rules to reduce their (gas)energy consumption. Air conditioning units are now not allowed to operate below 27.
What needs to be done?
Constructing homes with good ventilation or an air conditioning unit and the public being made aware of the dangers of hot weather.
UK infrastructure has been designed to retain heat during the cold winters, however it must become effective at keeping the heat out during summer. Currently 20% of existing UK infrastructure is at risk of overheating, projected to rise as average temperatures climb.
The extreme heat will take a toll on the people as the country lacks the infrastructure to tackle it
Apartments, for instance, in the UK, have been built with good insulation, preventing heat dissipation, thinking that we’re a cold country. Consequently, they have been built without the facilities to install an air conditioning unit. Some apartment building windows aren’t even capable of opening fully making it difficult to get any cool air through the apartment.