Heatwaves caused by climate change could kill 11,000 by 2080
12th September 2012
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) have released warnings this week that paint a bleak future for our children, grandchildren, and those of us who may still be around in the year 2080. They claim that by this year, the effects of global warming could cause heat-related fatalities to rise by up to 70% in the 2020s, and then sky-rocket to an astonishing 540% by 2080. In just 68 years’ time climate change could cause catastrophic heatwaves that will result in 11,000 deaths each year, up from the current figure of around 2,000. The people who are succumbing to high temperatures at the moment are primarily the elderly and vulnerable who may struggle to cool themselves down. The HPA say that the old and those confined to hospital beds will find it difficult to cope by 2080 with expected temperature increases of 10C across towns and cities. It is believed that temperatures may peak at a staggering 40C (104F) in London during the summer seasons. Those with lung or heart disease are particularly at high risk. HPA chairman Dr David Heymann spoke on the issue and said, “There is no doubt that climate change poses a wide range of challenges to public health in the UK. From increased risks of heatwaves through to potentially greater exposure to air pollution, indoors and outdoors, and potential changes to established pollen seasons, there are many issues, all of which need further research and attention if we are to adapt to or mitigate the effects.” The ‘potential changes’ Dr Heymann refers to will have a direct impact on those with hay fever specifically who will see their suffering extended due to an earlier start to the pollen season, and it will then finish at a later month than usual. Dr Heymann continued, “We are confident that this report will provide all government departments with the further information they need to properly prioritise areas for future work and protect the UK public from the significant looming health challenges that climate change presents.” More misery is expected for hay fever sufferers in the form of an allergenic form of pollen with more potency due to grass flowering earlier on in the year. On top on this, ragweed, a plant that emanates from the U.S., is likely to become prominent across the south in Britain. Professor Roy Kennedy of the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit has claimed that the ragweed can emit millions of pollen grains and cause a flare-up in symptoms for those with hay fever as well as asthma in people who have never even suffered with the lung condition previously. However, it gets worse. Presently, effective medication such as Malarone is used for the prevention and treatment of Malaria, first taken 1-2 days before travelling to various tropical and subtropical countries that are at high risk of the disease. In 2080 though, the risks may be a little closer to home! By this point, increasing temperatures may result in Brits contracting exotic illnesses in their own country as new species of mosquito carrying tropical diseases such as dengue fever and chikungunya could migrate north and over to the UK, causing chaos for millions. If this occurs then Medical Specialists can expect an even bigger surge in enquiries about Malarone after already being inundated with many requests during 2012. The HPA have now advised the government to take the warnings seriously and consider improvements in infrastructure so that all homes and hospitals are better able to manage with the soaring temperatures.