Researchers say the dangerous hot weather resulting from climate change could trigger food and water shortages – and even kill thousands. The stark warning comes in the wake of a blistering heatwave across Britain, with the Met Office activating its first-ever extreme heat alert.
Weather modelling for the worst-case scenario suggests the UK could be hit with 40C temperatures every three-and-a-half years by the end of the century.
Moderate forecasts predict such an outcome is more likely to occur every 15 years.
Chloe Brimicombe, a heatwave hazards researcher at the University of Reading, warns vital infrastructure, such as the railways, would be unable to function and farms could be destroyed.
She said: “Most of our rail network would not be able to run in those sorts of temperatures.
“We would see increased pressure on water resources, productivity would be reduced, and it could affect our livestock and our crops.”
Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics, branded the prospect of soaring temperatures as a “natural disaster”.
Mr Ward claims even healthy people could die due to heat exposure if the mercury hits 40C.
He said: “This is a natural disaster but we do not look at it that way. We are not set up for it in this country.
“Other hotter countries do not see the same mortality we do. But this is going to become more frequent and we need to start to prepare.
“At 40C even healthy people will not survive.
“Construction workers, agriculture workers — anyone who is working outdoors is at risk.”
Temperatures rose above 30C across the whole UK last weekend and the climate expert claims up to 1,000 people could have died.
Last summer, the mercury reached the high 30Cs and, according to Public Health England, 2,556 people died in England.
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“But what takes place in the second half of the century will largely depend on global ambition in terms of what happens to emissions.”
The UK Government has put plans in place to tackle climate change, including laws to reduce harmful emissions by 78 percent by 2035 and achieve net zero by 2050.
Last week, the Met Office issued its first ever amber extreme heat warning over Wales, the south-west England and parts of southern and central England.
The UK recorded the hottest day of the year on Tuesday where the mercury hit 32.2C at Heathrow Airport.
Northern Ireland smashed its hottest ever day three times in a week, with a maximum of 31.3C (88F) set on Wednesday.
The hottest ever UK temperature was recorded at Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden on July 25, 2019, when the mercury hit 38.7C.