It’s not just the election and football that are hotting up

We’re just starting to get this year’s hot summer weather now in Cambridge but around the world heatwaves have been killing people in record numbers.

News coverage in the UK recently has been dominated by the election and the Euro 2024 football tournament. Both are important in their own way. The election will affect the future of people across the country, with lives literally depending on politicians’ choices. Football, and sport more generally, are for many people a welcome relief from the pressures of modern life.

We’re just starting to get this year’s hot summer weather now in Cambridge but around the world heatwaves have been killing people in record numbers. In the last month a heat wave across Central and North America has exposed tens of millions of people to dangerous temperatures and in Mecca in Saudi Arabia over 1000 pilgrims are thought to have died as temperatures reached over 50 degrees Celsius. Earlier in the year New Delhi, a city of over 28 million people nearly reached a similar temperature and back in April, Mali in West Africa registered its hottest day in history with more than 100 heat related deaths reported at a single hospital within 4 days. All these extreme events should be head-line news but now they are mostly buried amongst other news as we become used to the constant drip of tragedy and environmental disasters.

Thankfully the sort of temperatures seen in Mecca or Delhi are unlikely in the UK. But the summer of 2022 when temperatures in Cambridge reached 39.9 degrees C saw approximately 3000 excess deaths in the UK. Who knows what this summer will hold?

Sport on the TV might provide a welcome distraction. But there is increasing worry that the upcoming Olympics in Paris will be hit by extreme heat and provide another reminder that when it comes to climate change, we can’t keep looking away. Perhaps British Cycling will regret its decision to advertise Shell on its kit if that happens!

The election provides an opportunity for all of us to show that we are not looking away. Lives and livelihoods depend on us getting to net zero as fast as possible. The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, an alliance of medical organisations representing about 1 million UK health professionals, has suggested priorities for the UK general election; first on their list is ending fossil fuel dependency.

We need to elect politicians who take climate change seriously and commit to an urgent phase out of fossil fuels and transition to net zero. This will need to be paid for but the costs of inaction will be far greater and paid for not just in pounds but in lives.

Article by Dr James Smith on behalf of Carbon Neutral Cambridge.

July 2024