Climate crisis Q&A: All your questions answered from causes to actions you can take

Britain is baking in what looks set to be a record breaking heatwave – as the UK has experienced its hottest ever night with temperatures not falling below 25C.

People are being urged not to travel as the transport network struggles to cope with the searing temperatures and rail lines buckle under the extreme heat.

Tragically, the heatwave has already claimed 12 lives as people are urged to be careful while temperatures soar above 40C.

Huge fires have broken out in fields and water companies are urging people to use water sparingly amid fears of a shortage.

And while the heatwave is set to end in the coming days, experts are warning this may well not be the only one of summer 2022 with more boiling temperatures already expected next month.

So, why are Britain’s increasingly warm summers a concern and what can be done to combat the devastating impact of climate change.

Here, we speak to University College London expert Prof Chris Brierley, to answer all the key questions

Is it a bad thing if the temperature gets into the 40s Celsius, and if so why?
Yes – because it’s so much more than the previous record (38.7°C, Cambridge, July 25, 2019).

Body temperature is roughly 37 degrees and when you have a fever your temperature rises to 39 or 40 degrees. So the temperature feels like you’re having a fever.

Your body’s built to take some stress but can’t you recover if it doesn’t cool down overnight.

That’s when you get some really nasty health consequences.

How has the British climate changed over the past decades?
Over the past 40 years, on an annual mean we’ve warmed by one degree. We’ve seen warming but this is still an exceptional event.

What causes climate change?
The main problem is greenhouse gasses. Carbon dioxide is the biggest. They are accumulating in our atmosphere.

Will we get more heatwaves like this in Britain?
The Met Office believes an extreme heatwave like this one will be more of a one-in-15-years event, by the end of the century.

Does climate change mean more extreme cold as well? And why?
There are places where changes in climate led to changes in where the prevailing weather systems come from, and the nature of those weather systems.

The UK is unfortunately one of those particular places. Changes in Arctic Sea ice and ocean circulation in the North Atlantic could lead to more extreme cold.

What can we expect in the next 20 years?
We are seeing a gradual shift to higher temperatures. The further you go into the future, the more the risk of extreme heatwaves.

Has climate change sped up?
The surface warming is going fairly linearly recently. But sea level rise is speeding up.

What can we expect for Britain in 50 and 100 years if we continue with the same attitudes?
Action is happening, so I don’t think we’ll ever get to that Mad Max world.

We’ve seen graphs of what climate change of 1C, 2C and 5C look like – but what does it mean for us?
The amount of extreme heat we can expect, like this heatwave, scales with the global average.

What can we personally do?
Build houses adapted to deal with warmer climates – ie have shades over the tops of windows or white grooves like in the South of France.

And we need to stop making the problem even worse – use less power, don’t travel as much, etc.

What is the Government doing – and is it enough?
The Government has made some great strides since the Climate Change Act in 2008.

The Government wants to do the right things but it’s not saying how we’re going to do it or putting enough money behind it.

What needs to be done internationally? Who/what is the biggest obstacle?
The people who are actively making money and lobbying to stop government making rules – the big fossil fuel companies.

Is being carbon-neutral enough?
Carbon-neutral is not enough necessarily, but if we achieve it then we have got 90% there. Farming and deforestation affect climate change too.

How long have we got to take action?
It doesn’t work like that. There isn’t a final deadline. The more action we take and the sooner we take it, the better it will be for the climate in the future.

How obstructive have climate change deniers been to progress?
I reckon they cost us 10 years.

What do the Tory leadership hopefuls need to do about climate change?
Be proactive in bringing it up rather than waiting to be asked questions on it. We have problems with energy security, climate problems and cost of living.

The solution to all of those is pretty similar. So why not tackle them all?