Bracing ourselves for 41°C hotwave

…and I’m already asking questions about how prepared we could – and should have been for this.

Here’s Prof Emily Shuckburgh of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge, speaking to Channel 4 News earlier. (From 3mins 30secs in)

Cambridgeshire County Council has also been putting out messages like the one below:

…with further guidance in the link at

“We’re urging people across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough [to] prepare for the extreme heat on Monday and Tuesday. Temperatures could be excessive and could pose a danger to health. Please follow guidelines on how to beat the heat, including keeping yourself hydrated and to find shade where possible when UV rays are strongest, between 11am and 3pm.”

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, Jyoti Atri

I’m still not sure people will get this – not least given some of the newspaper headlines.

Free sun lotion? For real?!?!

Here’s the Chief Executive of the Met Office:

“It can be difficult for people to make the best decisions in these situations because nothing in their life has led them to know what to expect. Here in the UK we are used to treating a hot spell as the chance to go and play in the sun. This is *not that sort of weather*. Our lifestyles and infrastructure are not adapted to what is coming”

Penny Endersby, Met Office Chief Executive – 15 July 2022 – Red Warning for extreme heat.

For a civil servant in charge of the Met Office, the above is unprecedented.

“This is not that sort of weather”

As Ms Endersby of the Met Office said.

“The Red alert has been issued as there is a risk to health from such high temperatures, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat. This can lead to serious illness or be a danger to life.”

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, Jyoti Atri

On the Met Office’s warning and impact matrix, I cannot recall a time both during and after my years in the civil service where a weather/climate-related civil contingencies risk has hit that top right hand corner. What is about to hit us will be unprecedented.

Hence the warning from Samuel L. Jackson on the first Covid Lockdown seems appropriate here too:

“Stay. The. Fuck. At. Home.”

Above – No nonsense. Samuel L. Jackson.

For those who *have to go to work* which will be many key workers such as the emergency services, public transport workers, and refuse collectors, the Health and Safety Executive has published their guidance here.

In particular, their guidance on hot environments includes:

Hot environments

  • reschedule work to cooler times of the day
  • provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas
  • provide free access to cool drinking water
  • introduce shading in areas where individuals are working
  • encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss
  • educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress

And if you haven’t already joined a trade union in your workplace, now might be a good time to do so (see as health and safety at work is one of their big areas of expertise – it was one of the founding pillars of the entire trade union movement. They are already providing expert guidance for their members on managing the extreme temperatures that are now already with us.

The aftermath – coping with climate

After anything like this, there will be an inquiry and an evaluation or three by more than a few organisations. We know this will happen more frequently in the future, so mitigation now becomes essential. And the lack of mitigation already has got me concerned – whether it is painting the pavements in a very dark shade of black asphalt in Cambridge…

…through to the lack of maps showing which large buildings with air conditioning will be open to the public should their homes become too hot for them to cope. This is something that civil contingencies officers should have done – but in the face of over a decade of austerity and the CV19 pandemic, it’s hardly surprising that this work may not have been done, or that the work that was done many moons ago is now obsolete. Not least because so many buildings have been knocked down/replaced/built and now have different tenants and owners.

In the autumn, local councillors should lead community evaluation exercises in their wards and divisions to find out what people’s experiences were, and what suggestions they have not just for individual responses but communal and collective responses. What improvements to our urban infrastructure could we make and where, to help mitigate the impacts of future heatwaves? This could be as simple as planting more trees along roadsides and pavements that have no tree covers, to installing solar panels on community buildings and white-washing dark external surfaces where appropriate.

Community learning on practical adaptation and mitigation

I was browsing through the Green Technology Courses at Cambridge Regional College here. The problem is the focus is on motor vehicles. The county-wide offer needs to go far, far beyond this. At the same time, we also need to provide the easy routes for people to transition into new careers in the essential green industries that will be doing the retro-fitting. This includes smashing the snobbery about manual work.

Where will these community workshops be held? Do we have the tutors and facilities willing and able to deliver such courses? What should be on the courses or workshops? Are there options for people who are unable to afford a full-on renovation to their homes?

Above – using portable solar panels and a battery power pack designed for camping and outward-bound travelling to run my laptop off and recharge my phones & gadgets.

My financial hole got bigger but I’m hoping it’ll make a difference to my parents’ electricity bills. I got the pair from here. Other brands are available. The solar panels have USB inputs so you can charge up a mobile phone directly from them, but not anything that needs a three-pin plug. There are also a number of Y-Tube video guides and reviews that answer any more detailed questions you may have. But one thing that struck me was the need to re-learn (or properly learn) the essentials of electricity that my school years under John Major utterly failed to provide for. (Yes, I still have a chip on my shoulder from the 1990s, and no I’m not over it!!!)

What might a county-wide (or even nation-wide) offer look like? One that can break the class divides.

This might include universities overhauling their entire offers to students and incorporate practical climate adaptation modules for their students, to white collar workplaces (offices) enabling their staff to take paid day-release in order to undertake practical courses on things that should have been mainstreamed decades ago – only those pioneers that were making the case were all too often laughed at. It’s only now that I realise how much my old university could have provided to prepare us for the future, to give us a rounded education, and how its failures – and also my own personal shortcomings, meant that I missed out. Which also explains why I felt a sense of emptiness when I graduated some 20 years ago.

So it was striking to see and hear documentary maker, campaigner, and comedian Mark Thomas (the man responsible for 100 acts of minor dissent) speak so powerfully about the journey that graduands at the University of Kent at Canterbury Cathedral had made. He reminded everyone how dependent we are on each other. And on how students were able to graduate because of the support they had received from various friends, family members, staff, and teachers. It’s worth watching below (from 1hr13mins). After which…

…Mark Thomas tears into Boris Johnson – much to the delight of the young people in gowns, but perhaps a little less so from their parents!

(The Book 100 Acts of Minor Dissent is available here brand new from Mark’s site, or if you are feeling the cost-of-living pinch, there are a few second hand copies on ABEBooks.)

It has only been in more recent times that businesses have taken more seriously the impact of the climate emergency. The reason? Higher insurance premiums for business continuity insurance due to the impact of extreme weather events which are increasing in frequency due to the changing climate. What if your staff cannot get into work? What if the extreme heat takes out your power supplies? Or the taps run dry?

“Read it in the papers – You hear it in the news
Very few listen – A spew without a view
And is it really worth it – You’re choking on remote
I see the red tide coming – But we don’t even vote
Infection in the greenhouse – Dizzy in the clouds
Oily as an ocean – Heaven disemboweled
Planning on a future – Well lucky for some
Develop your body – But your mind is still a slum”

“Don’t Ask Me” by Public Image Limited from 1990

Above – sound familiar? Mr Rotten continues.

“The product in the packaging
Of multi-layered glam
150 layers of materials
To cover up a sham
Protecting my planet
Wrap it in plastic
This package is product
Perfected eternal
A crap in a cling wrap
I never met yet a prime minister or president
Who told us the truth yet”

“Don’t Ask Me” by Public Image Limited from 1990

…and that was written 30 years *before* the outgoing Prime Minister took office!

This was also the time the Blue Peter Green Book (digitised here) was published – so if you want to show people what we already knew, there are several cheap copies under a fiver going second hand here. Any of you running climate awareness stalls, worth considering buying up some second hand copies of environmental campaign books from yesteryear and selling them / giving them away to interested persons. (Or if you are a local membership organisation, have them as gifts with new membership!)

For those of you who want to take up the issue of green technology skills and the lack of practical community provision, see the Combined Authority here, and either use their online form here to ask a question directly on what’s going to change following this hotwave, or alternatively/additionally, email any of your local councillors and ask them to address your concerns via – asking your councillors to contact the responsible organisations for comprehensive answers if your councillors don’t have them to hand themselves.

As I mentioned in my previous blogpost, Ministers were warned. Repeatedly. Not least by their own reports. Such as the 2017 report below.

Above – the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017

Above – that report gave ministers five years to deliver policies that would deal with the urban heat island effect as well as overheating in homes.

Where are we today?

Let’s see if any Urgent Questions are tabled before MPs debate the faux confidence motion that the Prime Minister has tabled in Parliament. For he has tabled a motion:

“That this House has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”

Motion of Confidence 18 July 2022

with the Liberal Democrats tabling an amendment:

“‘That this House…has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government and in the Prime Minister, and demands that the Prime Minister resign from office immediately.’”

Amendment to the Prime Minister’s Motion of Confidence from the Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Monday will be a very hot day in the Chamber. Will the next few days have an impact on public opinion? Vote now!

This time next week we’ll get a sense of what will have changed.

Food for thought?

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