Caroline Russell by Chris King Photography

News from Caroline Russell: Heatwave melting London just beginning of climate chaos

25 July 2019

Heatwave melting London just beginning of climate chaos

Today’s record-breaking heat will be the new normal for summers within our lifetimes as climate change heats up our city, shown by evidence in Caroline Russell’s recent report. 

Temperatures are expected to peak at 38°C which would beat the current July record of 36.7°C set at Heathrow in 2015 and potentially the all-time UK temperature record of 38.5°C in August 2003. 

Caroline Russell commissioned a report [1] to look at the risks that London faces from climate change and the results were very worrying. Among other things it found that:

  • Two thirds of London flats could experience overheating by the 2030s, that’s people’s living rooms and bedrooms hitting an unbearable 28 degrees
  • Heat disproportionately affects the most vulnerable people, in the 2003 heatwave deaths for over-75s in London increased by 59% 
  • Over the next decade London homes could suffer from sweltering overheating up to seven weeks a year – over twice as long as we currently do
  • There are gaps that exist in the evidence, for example we don’t know about how extreme heat impacts pupil attainment and the number of teaching days. 

Caroline asked the Mayor to fill these gaps when she questioned him at Mayor’s Question Time back in May [2]. But his response was lacklustre, saying that work on housing, workplaces, and schools was being considered in future phases.

Caroline said:

We can all remember commuting through the heatwave last summer and how unpleasant that was. Today there is major travel disruption because train companies are worried track will buckle in the heat.  

We are also seeing local businesses close as they struggle to operate in such hot weather.

These sorts of events are the reality we are living in now, and as our climate emergency continues, they will only become more and more common. 

The Mayor needs to plug the gaps in our knowledge on just how badly our city will be affected in our warming world. His failure to do the research on the impact of extreme heat to places like schools and workplaces means that we aren’t properly prepared. 

He must prepare us for these risks, London needs to be ready.

Notes to editors

Caroline is available for interview.

[1] Read Caroline’s report

[2] Caroline’s question to the Mayor

The Mayor’s response to Caroline’s report


Report recommendations in full:

Recommendation 1

The GLA should prioritise and commission further research and analysis of future climate risk, with a focus on quantification based on the UKCP18 projections. The gap analysis identified the suggested areas for further investigation and research. There should be a clear focus on the sectors identified in this report (housing, transport, emergency services, utilities and workplaces), alongside social infrastructure such as schools. From the literature review, heatwave impact on schools was widely reported within the media, but rarely supported with quantifiable evidence.

Recommendation 2

Additional research is needed in specific areas. The IPCC special report clearly stated that there are less than 12 years left to avert dangerous climate change. The short timescale requires a focus on specific areas:

  • Implications of 1.5°C global temperature increase by early 2030s.
  • Assessing and updating the climate adaptation measures in the Mayor’s London Environment Strategy to reflect the risks identified in a 1.5°C warming scenario.
  • Assessment of Impact on carbon budgets of moving climate targets to early 2030s.
  • Potential costs of moving targets to 2030s with reduced carbon budgets.

Recommendation 3

The role of the London Climate Change Partnership (LCCP) must be enhanced and its role in commissioning and advising the GLA must be strengthened. Adapting to climate change is often seen as a secondary choice to mitigation. However, both should be done in parallel. Given the current global emissions trajectory and the momentum from previous emissions, London should expect to experience all of the impacts from climate change outlined in this report. Efforts to adapt must be stepped up. The LCCP must therefore be adequately resourced with a focus on the task of making London resilient to all climate risks through research and advice with the task of implementation down to the GLA. It is ideally placed to bridge the relationship between key sectors identified in this report, academia and decision makers.

Recommendation 4

It is recommended that a centralised climate data repository is created by the GLA to improve data access and ease of analysis, avoiding duplication or discrepancies. The wide range of data held on current and future impacts makes analysis and policy development difficult. The Mayor’s London Datastore would be an ideal repository for the diversity and range of data.

Recommendation 5

Rather than mapping climate impacts on their own, these should be analysed within the context of existing and new low carbon policies. For example, an expansion of heat pumps with cooling capability may help with comfort in summer but put additional pressure on the grid during critical periods.

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