press release
Published: 16 June 2022

Global warming is threatening the health of people in Britain, study shows

Heatwaves are making more people in rural areas of England severely ill today than they were in the 1980s, according to new research from the University of Surrey.

Researchers from Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) are now calling on policymakers and fellow scientists to not forget the countryside when formulating solutions to combat the damaging effects of climate change.  

Professor Prashant Kumar, Director of GCARE, said:   

“Heatwaves are getting deadlier, even in Britain. We already knew that the urban heat island effect exacerbates the problem in cities, but now we also have proof that people living in less built-up areas are also threatened.”  

The research examined mortality and maximum daily temperatures across 38 years – from 1981 and 2018 – in Southeast England and Aberdeenshire.   

The GCARE team found that people living in the Southeast of England are now seven per cent more likely to die prematurely when the temperature rises significantly (about 6 degrees Centigrade) above 26.5 degrees Centigrade. In Aberdeenshire, the risk of dying prematurely increases by four per cent, compared to the Southeast of England, when the temperature increases by just two degrees from 24.5 degrees C to 26.7 degrees C.   

Professor Kumar continued:   

“The problem of rising temperatures is pronounced in southern England, but it’s probably only a matter of time before northern areas experience the same. More needs to be done to prepare for hot weather, and leaders in government – whether national, devolved or local – need to update their heat action plans and identify how to protect vulnerable people during heatwaves.”  

 
The research has been published by Sustainable Cities and Society.  

 
[ends]  

Notes to editors 

  • Reference:  

Sahani, J., Kumar, P., Debele, S. and Emmanuel, R., 2022. Heat risk of mortality in two different regions of the United Kingdom. Sustainable Cities and Society, 80, 103758. Online: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2022.103758 

  • This work was carried out under the framework of OPERANDUM (OPEn-air laboRAtories for Nature baseD solUtions to Manage hydro-meteo risks) project, which is funded by the Horizon 2020 under the Grant Agreement No: 776848. The research builds upon previous work on hydrometeorological hazard risk assessment and operationalising their nature-based solutions through modelling and monitoring frameworks.  

  • The University of Surrey is a leading research institution that focuses on sustainability to the benefit of society in order to deal with the many challenges of climate change. It is also committed to improving its own resource efficiency on its own estate in Guildford and being a sector leader. It has set a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030. In April, it was ranked 55th in the world by the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings which assesses more than 1,400 universities' performance against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

  • For the purposes of this study, the Southeast of England covered Buckinghamshire, East and West Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Surrey.  

  • Professor Prashant Kumar is available for interview upon request.  

  • Contact the University of Surrey press office: mediarelations@surrey.ac.uk   

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