UK heatwave: Revealed – the five areas of England that are most vulnerable to hotter weather | Climate News

As the country struggles to cool down in ever hotter summers, the communities that will be hardest hit and/or least able to cope have been identified by new research.

Birmingham has by far the most communities that urgently need help to cope with hotter weather, according to analysis from Manchester University and campaigners Friends of the Earth (FoE).

The city’s followed by the London boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney – with Nottingham also making the list.

Local authorities in England with the most vulnerable neighborhoods
Image:
Local authorities in England with the most vulnerable neighborhoods

The number of people exposed to extreme heat “grows very rapidly as the planet warms up”, which shows the “real human consequence” of failing to cut emissions, FoE’s head of science, policy and research Mike Childs told Sky News.

The research sends “a very strong signal to politicians that we need to double down on cutting our carbon emissions, unlike some of the candidates to be our next prime minister… who are suggesting perhaps we could dial back on climate action”, he said.

Climate change has already warmed Britain by 0.9C. About 800 extra people die due to heat each year.

The researchers identified neighbourhoods that are prone to hot weather, and then assessed more than 40 factors that would make those communities vulnerable. Age is one of them – with risks to the elderly and toddlers well known.

There are also lesser-discussed risks such as crime levels, with high crime rates deterring people from opening windows.

Landscape also plays a big role, as concrete heavy areas absorb a lot of heat, whereas street trees and green space have a cooling effect and provide shelter, and high-rise buildings are particularly susceptible to overheating.

Birmingham is not only urban, but also has a large stock of privately rented accommodation in poor condition.

Mr Childs said these areas should be targeted for greater support – such as by planting more trees along streets, installing air conditioning in community centres, or retrofitting homes to be warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

Mr Childs called it a “fairness” and “race” issue, with all worst-affected communities having a below-average carbon footprint, and ethnically diverse people four times more likely to live in a vulnerable community than white people.

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Why heatwaves are getting worse

FoE wants the government to prioritise the 3,000 most vulnerable neighbourhoods for publicly funded adaptation projects, as well as double down on cutting emissions to avoid further warming.

A government spokesperson said the UK has already cut emissions faster than any other G7 nation and has made “significant” £1.2bn funding available for councils to take local action.

It is also working on plans for regulations to reduce the risk of overheating in new residential buildings – though existing housing stock remains a problem.

The Local Government Association was unavailable to comment.

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Is it getting hotter more often?

Professor Robert Lowe, who specialises in energy resilience and built environments at University College London, said that while climate change was dangerous, the current “unravelling of global supply chains, and the likelihood that the energy crisis will be followed by a food crisis and general impoverishment of populations ” made the demands “unrealistic”.

The researchers first focused on England, which has the greatest risk and largest population.

A similar project looking at Wales is ongoing.

The analysis comes as the government’s climate advisers warn of the dangers of “locking in” the dangerous impacts of climate change to our homes.

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