Socialist Worker

Heatwave shows urgent need for action on climate change

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2665

Train firms advised people to stay at home or risk huge delays from damaged overhead wires or buckled tracks.

Train firms advised people to stay at home or risk huge delays from damaged overhead wires or buckled tracks. (Pic: Flickr/Jeremy Segrott)


People across Britain were sweltering under a heatwave on Thursday as temperatures soared to over 38 degrees celsius. 

It was the second hottest day in Britain on record, and the hottest ever July day.

Astonishing temperatures were reached in several parts of Britain—38.1 degrees was recorded in Cambridge and other cities broke regional records. Of the previous ten hottest days, all but two have been in the last 29 years.

Train firms advised people to stay at home or risk huge delays from damaged overhead wires or buckled tracks. In very high temperatures trains can bend the tracks, known as buckling, causing them to derail. 

The heatwave sweeping much of Europe is indicative of climate catastrophe—and a small taste of what is to come. Grant Allen, a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Manchester said, “Climate change is not longer a future problem. It is here and it is accelerating.

“As climate change progresses, the frequency of previously extreme weather events will increase. There will be a new normal, which will challenge existing UK infrastructure and profoundly impact our ecosystem.”

Three hour waiting times were reported at Brockwell Lido, south London, as 500 people queued outside. 

Thousands of people in Bristol were left without water for more than ten hours after a pipe burst. Bristol Water said the high temperatures caused the ground to shift. 

Races 

In Blackpool, the Sea Life attraction had to run sea water through a cooler—for the first time in three decades. And greyhound races were cancelled amid fear dogs would die from heatstroke.

Temperature records were smashed across northern Europe—many only breaking a record set a day earlier. France, Germany and Belgium all set an all-time record with highs of over 40 degrees.

In the Netherlands a “smog alarm” was issued due to severe air pollution. 

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Professor Peter Stott from the Met Office said, “Having this frequency of heatwaves across the hemisphere would have been extraordinarily unlikely without climate change.

“It’s now being made a possibility, and that’s what we’re seeing.” 

No one particular weather event can be directly attributed to climate change. 

But it is without doubt that Earth’s temperature is dramatically changing, and the consequences threaten us all. A hotter temperature in Britain won’t just mean more BBQs and outdoor swimming, but will tear apart huge parts of everyday infrastructure. 

For short term heatwaves like this week, emergency measures can be put in place to ensure services still run. 

Heatwaves are a very real health risk—sometimes with fatal consequences. It’s not good enough for the Public Health England agency to issue reminders for people to drink enough water and sit in the shade.

It will need more action on the streets and in the workplaces to demand that climate change is treated like the emergency it is. Everyone should organise walkouts for the global strike for the climate on 20 September. 


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