Bedford could see heat-related deaths treble warns climate change report

Climate change “threatens to reverse the past 50 years of public health gains”
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Bedford borough could see three times the number of heat-related deaths within 60 years, a meeting heard.

During this week’s Climate Change Committee (Monday, June 26) councillors heard that the East of England is estimated to experience 5.6 heat-related deaths per hundred thousand per year.

Dr Alice McGushin, a public health registrar currently on a placement at Bedford Borough Council, said: “That’s expected to increase to 9.9 per hundred thousand in the 2050s, and 15.5 per 100,000 in the 2080s.

Climate activists  (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)Climate activists  (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)
Climate activists (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

“Bedford borough currently experiences 10 deaths per year related to heat waves.

“It could experience 18 deaths per year in the 2050s, and 29 deaths per year in the 2080s.

“This is not taking into account the change in the population, including changes in the number of elderly older people,” she said.

Dr McGushin was presenting the key findings from the 2022 Lancet Countdown Report to the committee,

This is an international collaboration of over 100 experts from academic institutions and UN agencies and it tracks indicators of the present-day health impacts of climate change and the response.

The report presented to the committee said climate change is described as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” and threatens to reverse the past 50 years of public health gains.

Dr McGushin said the 2022 report, which was published at the end of last year ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate negotiations, had three key messages.

“The first was that a persistent fossil fuel reliance is amplifying the health impacts of the concurrent crises we face,” she said.

“The second is that national governments and companies continue to prioritise fossil fuel interests to the detriment of people’s health and well-being.

“And the third key message was a health-centred response to the compounding crises can still deliver a future in which people cannot only survive but thrive,” she said.

Acting on climate change, such as reducing air pollution and improving energy efficiency in the home, could bring health benefits.

And indirect benefits of taking action could mean fewer deaths and injuries from extreme weather events, less skin cancer, and the reduced spread of diseases carried by insects.

“The climate emergency and the responses to it have many health and well-being implications globally, nationally, and locally,” Dr McGushin said.

“A health in all climate policies approach taken by Bedford borough would ensure [that] climate change is addressed in key health documents, such as the joint health and well-being strategy, and the joint strategic needs assessment.

“And [show] that health and well-being are considered as part of the council’s climate change and sustainability strategies,” she said.

Councillor Sue Oliver (Labour, Kempston North) said: “Thank you Alice for what would be a truly alarming report – if it were not tempered with the mitigation and health co-benefits.

“It shows that there could be light at the end of the tunnel.

“I think this [report] should be compulsory reading for anybody who still doesn’t believe that climate change is a real thing, let alone an emergency,” she said.