Health and Climate Change in the UK

 
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Sea levels in the UK are expected to rise by up to 1 metre by 2100, resulting in 5 million people at risk from flooding over the next 60 years. In the UK, more frequent and severe flooding have already begun to impact health in the UK. The Committee on Climate Change highlights the mental health impacts of flooding, with the 2007 flood victims up to five times more likely to experience stress and anxiety. Furthermore, 7% of hospitals, 9% of GP surgeries and health centres and 13% of police, fire and ambulance stations are built on flood plains, putting a risk of flooding on these services which impact human health.

Unless warming trends are reversed, average summer temperatures in the south-east of England are projected to rise by over 2°C. This is warmer than the 2003 heatwave that killed 2,000 people in England and Wales (RCPCH). The Met Office warns that summers like that of 2003 could occur as frequently as every other year up to 2050. The Royal College of Physicians predicts that heat related deaths in the UK could increase to 7,000 a year with children and older people most at risk. Furthermore, the economic burden of heatwaves to the NHS will increase: the 2003 heatwave cost the NHS £41.4 million and cost the whole economy £399.8 million (RCPCH).

Other impacts of climate change on health include:

  • Increased disease risk: changing temperatures mean insects carrying disease can move to different countries, the UK being one of them.
  • Higher UV exposure related to increasing temperatures increases the risk of skin cancer
  •  Risk to food supply caused by change in temperature and rainfall and more extreme weather events. 46% of the UK’s food is imported (19-Breaking the fever) so floods or droughts around the world could majorly impact the cost of food in the UK, impacting the most vulnerable first.

 

Date of Publication: 10.05.2018