Heatwaves are killing double the number of elderly people as climate change effects worsen

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Chronic disease and a largely ageing population has given the country one of the highest levels of vulnerability to temperature in the world. There were an estimated 8,500 heat-related deaths among the over- 65s in 2018, more than double the annual average across 2000-04. The UK also experienced 5.6 million hours of potential lost work in 2019 due to heatwaves.

Heat-related deaths of vulnerable people globally have increased by 54 per cent in the past two decades.

In the UK, there were an estimated 17,700 deaths linked to “ambient fine particulate air pollution” from human activities in 2018. Various sources include households, agriculture, transport, and power plants.

The Lancet Countdown’s fifth annual report tracking the links between climate change and health warns that no country, rich or poor, is immune from the impacts of rising temperatures.

It said the food system is responsible for 20-30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from meat and dairy livestock. Excess red meat eating has a growing impact worldwide and was linked to almost a million premature deaths in 2017.

In the UK, red meat eating accounted for 12,270 deaths in 2017 out of a total of nearly 116,000 deaths attributable to a diet-related risk factor, the experts said.

The report warned that without urgent action, climate change will increasingly threaten health, disrupt lives and overwhelm health services.

Wildfires, a lack of green space in cities and flooding displacement are among increasing factors. A shift to clean energy and transport could help deliver immediate benefits to health.

Dr Ian Hamilton, of the Lancet Countdown, said: “The threats to human health are multiplying and intensifying due to climate change.

“Unless we change course, our healthcare systems are at risk of being overwhelmed in the future.”

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This year is set to be one of the hottest on record, experts say.

The average global temperature is expected to be around 34.2F (1.2C) above pre-industrial levels.

Heatwaves, hurricanes, floods and wildfires have contributed to “another extraordinary year” for the climate, says the World Meteorological Organisation.

It puts 2020 on track to be one of the three hottest years on record since 1850. It is behind 2016 but higher than 2019. A strong El Nino effect, a band of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, pushed up temperatures in 2016.

Professor Petteri Taalas, of the WMO, said while the world is experiencing a La Nina moment, which cools global temperatures, that has “not been sufficient to put a brake on this year’s heat”.

He added: “This year has already shown near record heat comparable to the previous record of 2016.” There is a one in five chance that global average temperatures will be 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2024.

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