Living in an advanced economy and having a generally temperate climate means that we can often think that any extremes of weather are not going to have much impact on our lives. It is true that developing countries suffer to a much greater extent when there are extreme weather events, but we should not underestimate the potential that extreme weather events of a greater intensity and frequency could have locally.
It is a scientific fact that the Earth has been warming up in recent decades and that such warming has an impact on our weather. Despite the rain we finally had on Sunday, I expect that we will have had the driest June and July for at least over 40 years with only a small fraction of our usual average rainfall. What has also been noticeable this summer is that excessively hot weather has been an issue right across the northern hemisphere, rather than just in some places. The warnings of two to three decades ago that uncomfortably hot and dry summers will occur much more frequently currently appear to be well-founded.
Fifteen years ago, the summer heatwave of 2003 caused an estimated 35,000 deaths across Europe and scientists predict that increased frequency of severe heatwaves will occur in the future. This means factoring in extremes of weather in the planning process and in building design, as well as seeking to provide natural shading from trees in our concrete urban heat islands.
There are also implications for food production, public services including the NHS, and for our natural environment. Last week saw terrible deadly forest fires in Greece and while on nothing like the same scale, there have been moorland and grass fires here in the UK this summer.
Our government has been strong on climate change in reducing CO2 emissions but the implications from the damage already done is likely to last decades. Dealing with more frequent long hot summers is likely to be something we adapt to. Even at local council level, this will need to be considered when seeking to maintain good services in extremes of weather.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
1st August 2018