During the second half of July 2022, record-high temperatures became a global scourge. Specifically, the United Kingdom has been experiencing an influx of media attention to a very intense heatwave. On July 19th, the national temperature record was broken with a reported 104.5 Fahrenheit. An entire three degrees higher than its previous record of 101.6 degrees Fahrenheit set in 2019. The negative consequences of this U.K. heatwave include a loss of productivity, over 800 casualties and the lack of protection against the heat added to the United Kingdom’s impoverishment.
Impact on the Impoverish
Poverty in the U.K. remains an issue. As of 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions’ data states that roughly 20% of U.K. citizens are living below the poverty line after factoring in their housing costs.
The heat wave is taking a huge hit on those living in low-income urban housing. Urban houses are more likely to be surrounded by other apartments, roads and a lack of green space which contribute to the challenges of these homes for losing heat.
In many instances, cooling systems such as ACs and fans remain unaffordable for people living in these neighborhoods. During the summer months, it is estimated that 6 million people live in these neighborhoods. An analysis from BBC conducted by satellite data and poverty figures suggests that people living in poverty in the U.K. are more than twice as likely to live in these hotter neighborhoods.
“If you’re in a top floor flat, if you’re homeless if you work outside and you have to do a lot of physical exertion, you are very vulnerable,” says Anthony Costello, a professor of global health at University College London, according to BBC.
While there is no clear-cut solution, there have been many efforts on a smaller scale to alleviate and support the impoverished during these hot times.
London, which has the highest poverty rate in the U.K., has been taking action in creative ways to help. London’s mayor’s office has designated a digital map that shows areas of the city with shaded spots and indoor public areas. This method can help the poor find cooler areas.
The Museum of Homelessness, a U.K. group that advocates for homelessness, has made efforts for measures for museums to open their doors to London’s homeless, providing them with air conditioners, Bloomberg reports. Many U.K. charities are also providing amenities such as ice-cold water, showers and ice cream to homeless people who may be vulnerable to the country’s heat at the moment.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a change in the country’s climate “We must future-proof our cities to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis,” Bloomberg reports. Even with the recognition, the Climate Change Commission concluded in its 2021 evaluation that the U.K. government was failing to protect people from heat risk.
Here are some recommendations on how the U.K. can take larger measures to protect their civilians, including the impoverished, from extreme heat.
- Plant more urban greenery, as it can lower surface and air temperatures through evapotranspiration.
- Spread more public awareness, including ways people can stay safe during these months (hydration, loose-fitting clothing).
- Provide more cooling centers to accommodate the impoverished.
By taking recommendations like these seriously, United Kingdom’s Heatwave could have less of an impact on those living in poverty.