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UK unprepared for rising temperatures

UK: Switzerland, UK and Norway will experience the most dramatic relative increase in days that require cooling interventions if the world overshoots 1.5ºC of warming, a new report claims.

The report by researchers from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Cooling predicts the impact of rising temperatures on climate adaptation requirements for cooling on a country-by-country basis if climate targets are missed.

Switzerland and the UK will see a 30% increase in days with uncomfortably hot temperatures, while Norway will see an increase of 28%. The researchers stress that this is a conservative estimate and does not consider extreme events like heatwaves, which would come on top of this average increase.

Eight of the 10 countries with the greatest relative increase in uncomfortably hot days are expected to be in Northern Europe, with Canada and New Zealand completing the list.

The researchers believe that these countries are “dangerously underprepared” for this change. “Right now, for example, sustainable cooling barely has a mention in the UK’s net zero strategy,” said co-author Dr Radhika Khosla, associate professor at the Smith School of Enterprise and the environment and leader of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Cooling.

“If we adapt the built environment in which we live, we won’t need to increase air conditioning. But right now, in countries like the UK, our buildings act like greenhouses – no external protection from the sun in buildings, windows locked, no natural ventilation and no ceiling fans. Our buildings are exclusively prepared for the cold seasons,” said co-lead author Dr Jesus Lizana.

Co-lead author Dr Nicole Miranda added: “Northern European countries will require large-scale adaptation to heat resilience quicker than other countries. The UK saw massive amounts of disruption in the record-breaking heatwaves of 2022. Extreme heat can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even death, especially in vulnerable populations. It’s a health and economic imperative that we prepare for more hot days.”

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