UK authorities unprepared for heat waves: Study

UK authorities unprepared for heat waves: Study

Cost of keeping homes cool is challenging for UK population, says British Red Cross

By Burak Bir

LONDON (AA) - Extreme heat waves are a growing concern among UK residents, who think Britain is not sufficiently equipped to protect the public, according to a study published Thursday.

The British Red Cross called for "greater urgency and a wider cultural shift" in adapting to hazards such as heat waves across the UK after recent nationwide polling showed rising concern.

An “analysis of the 2022 response to heat waves in England showed that the current emergency system was stretched to its limits while there is growing evidence of substantial economic impacts," said the study, recalling last year's unprecedented heat that resulted in 3,271 deaths in the UK.

The study noted that while politicians are increasing the focus on heat risks, the "progress is often difficult to assess."

The study, titled "Policy brief: Public perception of heat waves in the UK," said that 70% of Britons are concerned about the impact of heat waves and believe that climate change accelerates extreme heat.

"However, there is a clear gap between awareness and action," it said, adding that keeping homes cool to prevent the impact of extreme heat and costs is a challenge.

- Concern highest in London

The study said that 62% of adults in the UK are concerned about the impact of heat waves, up from 51% in 2021.

Meanwhile, 39% think the government is unprepared if a heat wave occurs.

Over a third, however, think that heat waves are not a problem for the UK now, but will be in the future.

Regionally, concern about the impacts is the highest in London, at 71%.

Meanwhile, 36% of Britons were not concerned about the impact of heat waves, although 61% of the public has experienced adverse effects of hot weather.

"Many people do not take actions to protect their health during a heat wave, despite believing they would be effective," said the study.

- 'Adaptation is critical'

The British Red Cross suggests in the study that adaptations to buildings and urban planning are "critical to tackling indoor and outdoor heat."

Local “governments across the UK have widely acknowledged the impact of heat waves on vulnerable groups. However, this has not yet led to the level of needed targeted and coordinated action," it noted.

The study also highlighted the need for raising awareness of heat risk within the "whole society" and comprehensive and coordinated risk management against heat waves, saying that the UK and devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should prioritize finding effective strategies against the impact of extreme heat.

Despite growing concern about the impact of heat risk, many people are not confident that the UK is well prepared and expect national and local governments to play a leading role in driving action, the study noted.

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