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12th June 2024

UKHACC calls for urgent global action to save lives in the facing of rising temperatures due to climate change

UKHACC is one of a range of organisations from the health and science sector who are calling for immediate, coordinated action to reduce the projected rise in deaths and health issues due to increasing temperatures.

A Roadmap for Global Heat Resilience is being launched in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 12 June. This consensus statement, coordinated by The Physiological Society, urges leaders across the world to adopt a human centred approach to tackling the health threat of climate change by coordinating efforts across sectors to improve preparedness to heat, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations. 

Climate change is the greatest health threat facing humanity. Globally, extreme temperature events are observed to be increasing in their frequency, duration, and magnitude. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people exposed to heatwaves increased by around 125 million, and the ten most recent years are the warmest on Earth on record. As temperatures rise, so too do the number of preventable heat-related deaths. The World Health Organization estimate that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from undernutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone.

In the UK, we have seen record-breaking temperatures, with the Met Office issuing its first ‘red warning’ for extreme heat and the Government declaring a national emergency in 2022 when temperatures reached over 40°C. During that summer alone, there were an estimated 2,985 excess deaths associated with five heat episodes in England, the highest number in any given year.  

Everyone is at risk, particularly those with reduced ability to cope with extreme heat, such as people who are older, pregnant, or those living or working in high-exposure environments. The UK Government needs to act now to build long-term heat resilience plans focused on prevention and preparation to protect health and save lives nationally as well as supporting international action.  

The Roadmap to Global Heat Health sets out six priorities to mitigate the health impacts of rising temperatures and contribute towards a resilient and thriving future for all communities: 

Prevention and preparation: Focus on medium- and long-term strategies for the whole population, with a specific focus on vulnerable populations.  

Coordinated efforts: Align heat-related activities at all government levels with clear accountability. 

Societal engagement: Engage public, private, and voluntary sectors in resilience measures.  

Targeted Heat Action Plans: Use vulnerability assessments to focus efforts on those most at risk.  

Enhanced collaboration: Foster cooperation across countries, sectors, and scientific disciplines, incorporating transdisciplinary approaches. 

Future prosperity and sustainability: Promote sustainability and productivity for a brighter, prosperous and secure future.  

Find out more and get involved > www.physoc.org.climatechange