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Health of 12 million Britons at risk from climate change

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More than 12 million people in the UK could have their health affected by rising temperatures and climate change, a report has found.

The findings from the Climate Coalition and Priestley International Centre for Climate suggest that millions of people could be vulnerable to blistering heatwaves and major flood events in the future, both of which events are made more likely by climate change.

Approximately 1.8m people in the UK were found to be living in areas at significant risk of flooding - a number which could increase to 2.6m in as little as 17 years.

Just under 12 million people in the UK are also dangerously vulnerable to future summer heatwaves, particularly the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.

“The severe health issues related to climate change show that we must take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis and protect the people we love from its impacts,” the report states.

“If decision-makers commit to take urgent, decisive action, we will live healthier lives with cleaner air and more green spaces. It is only through successful global action to reduce emissions we will stop climate change and we must reduce our emissions as our contribution.”

2020 was one of the hottest years on record, vying for pole position with 2016 and 2019. With the trend of increasing temperatures expected to continue, scientists have said there is a one-in-five chance that global average temperatures will temporarily exceed the threshold laid out in the Paris Agreement of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2024.

Speaking to Reuters, Clara Goldsmith, campaigns director at The Climate Coalition, said that failure to act swiftly on climate change “will spell disaster not only for our natural world, but for public health”.

Goldsmith added: “We need to make the switch to a net-zero economy as soon as possible to make sure that the risks we’re seeing now don’t increase over the years and decades to come.”

Earlier this week, a former Nasa scientist wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to take stronger climate action ahead of the COP26 climate talks later this year.

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