Three quarters worried about climate crisis with concern 40C heatwave is ‘serious health issue’

Seventy-percent of the public said they agreed climate change was a driver of the unprecedented heatwave

Saphora Smith
Climate Correspondent
Wednesday 20 July 2022 10:19 BST
People cool off in a water fountain during a heatwave, at Trafalgar Square in London.
People cool off in a water fountain during a heatwave, at Trafalgar Square in London. (REUTERS)

Three-quarters of people in Britain are worried about the worsening climate crisis and want more government action to tackle it, a poll has found, as the country sweltered in 40C temperatures that fuelled fires across the country.

The survey by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, which supports informed debate on energy and climate change in the UK, found 70 per cent of the public agreed that climate change was a driver of the recent heatwave, with only 17 per cent saying they didn’t believe it was a factor.

Seventy-five per cent said they were worried about the climate crisis gripping the planet and half said the heatwaves made them think governments and societies need to be more ambitious in tackling the issue. Only 8 per cent said they thought we should do less as a result.

Only 13 per cent of the 2000 people polled thought we should focus mostly on trying to adapt to climate change, while 75% per cent said we should focus mostly on cutting emissions or both cutting emissions and adapting.

More than two-thirds (68%) said the recent heatwave should be taken seriously as a threat to health and transport, particularly to vulnerable and elderly people. Almost a quarter (25%) of people thought the heatwaves were not a serious issue.

The UK smashed through temperature records on Tuesday, recording 40.3C in Coningsby in Lincolnshire - one of 34 locations across England that surpassed the 38.7C record from 2019.

They fuelled dozens of serious fires, causing people to be evacuated from their homes, and brought disruption to transport across England and Wales.

Gareth Redmond-King, international lead at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said: “With TV pictures of homes on fire, a nursery burnt to the ground and Britons witnessing first-hand the tinderbox conditions in unprecedented heat, they are clearly connecting these events with climate change.

“They see this as serious and dismiss the idea that we can just adapt to these conditions. Many people will be looking to the new PM for leadership on climate, because without reaching net zero emissions these conditions will continue to get worse.”

Boris Johnson has been accused of presiding over a “zombie government” since his resignation as prime minister and on Tuesday brushed off the extent of the concern at the historic temperatures, saying it was essential to keep schools and hospitals open and the “economy moving”.

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