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England’s grim milestone: Record Heatwave claims over 4,500 Lives in 2022

London, United Kingdom, September 23:  In a concerning trend, England witnessed a staggering surge in heat-related deaths in 2022, with a record-breaking toll of over 4,500 lives lost due to soaring temperatures. This alarming figure marks the highest level ever recorded, underscoring the escalating impact of climate change on public health.

Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals a troubling trajectory, with nearly 52,000 deaths associated with extreme heat recorded in England between 1988 and 2022.

Worryingly, one-third of these fatalities occurred since 2016. Neighboring Wales also experienced over 2,000 heat-related deaths during this 35-year period.

Across all regions in England, the mortality risk surged when temperatures exceeded 22°C (71.6°F), with London registering the highest rate. In the capital, mortality risk for temperatures exceeding 29°C was three times higher than that recorded within the optimal temperature range of 9°C to 22°C.

The year 2022 marked a somber milestone as the UK endured its warmest year on record, with temperatures surpassing 40°C for the first time. The annual average temperature settled at 10°C. Although 2023 has not breached this record, an unprecedented September heatwave scorched the nation with seven consecutive days of 30°C heat.

Globally, data from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service paints a dire picture, as the summer of 2023 witnessed the highest temperatures ever recorded.

Average global temperatures from June to August reached unprecedented levels, with August standing approximately 1.5°C warmer than the preindustrial average from 1850 to 1900.

A recent study reveals that the heatwaves of 2022 claimed the lives of more than 61,000 people across Europe, with the most significant impact felt in Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

Climate scientists emphasize that breaking heat records is no longer an anomaly; instead, it has become a new normal.

The human-caused climate crisis exacerbates the likelihood of prolonged and intense heatwaves, posing a significant threat to human health. Multi-day heatwaves, in particular, are concerning as the body’s recovery begins only when temperatures drop below 27°C.

Notably, Office for National Statistics data highlights that more people in England and Wales perish due to cold than high temperatures. Over 216,000 deaths were associated with the coldest days between 1988 and 2022.

However, in 2022, approximately 1,200 deaths were attributed to cold, marking the second-lowest figure in 35 years. The highest death toll due to low temperatures was recorded in 2020, with over 20,100 fatalities.

The ONS analysis underscores the importance of limiting exposure to extreme temperatures.

Professor Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who contributed to the ONS report, warns that this trend is a stark reminder of the urgent need for robust climate and public health measures.

He notes, “This is a stark warning that this will become the norm due to climate change, and it makes even more urgent the need to implement adequate climate and public health measures.”

Importantly, this report emerged shortly after the UK government’s decision to revise its commitment to net zero emissions, raising concerns about the country’s response to the climate crisis.

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