By Paul Homewood

h/t Ian Magness

There was a time when the Telegraph was a serious newspaper!

The mid 13th century ditty Sumer is icumen in is one of our oldest songs. Composed at Reading Abbey in the 1260s, the song is also the first known musical composition featuring a six-part polyphony in the English language. Otherwise known as the Summer Canon, it celebrates the many joys of a British summer: the meadows blooming, cuckoos trilling and all the landscape bursting into glorious life.

In the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, the months of June, July and August have for centuries been celebrated in our culture as the season of carefree relaxation after enduring the dark months of winter. But now the prospect of summer coming in appears to be an increasingly ominous one. 

As we have seen across the country in recent weeks, summer is rapidly becoming the season of heatwaveswildfires and flash floods. The Met Office’s annual State of the UK climate report, published yesterday, sheds new light on the Great British subtropical summer we must soon learn to live with – and indeed is already upon us.

According to the report (which covers last year), in early August 2020, temperatures hit 34C on six consecutive days, with five “tropical nights” where the mercury did not drop below 20C, making it one of the most significant heatwaves to affect southern England in the past 60 years.

Even if humanity manages to restrict global warming to 1.5C (when currently we are on course for double that) British summers are likely to regularly see temperatures of above 40C in the future.

And as we have seen on the streets of London in recent days, where patients were evacuated from an East London hospital and homes, roads, and tube stations were deluged, extreme summer flooding events are also becoming more likely as a warmer climate enables the atmosphere to hold more moisture, which then dumps down on us in rainfall. Last year was the third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest on record for the UK.

“We have already changed the climate, without a doubt,” says Professor Richard Betts, head of climate impact research at the Met Office Hadley Centre. “For now we have to live with the changes that are already here, and adapt to them.”

Betts was one of the authors of the UK’s climate change risk assessment report, which advises the Government and published its latest findings in June. The report highlighted eight risk areas that need urgent attention over the next two years – prominent among them the risk to human health from overheating in buildings as temperatures continue to soar. Last August’s heatwave, for example, led to more than 1,700 deaths across Britain. According to a new report by the Red Cross, heat-related deaths in Britain could triple to about 7,000 annually over the next 30 years.

“I think there is a big change needed in our housing stock particularly around overheating,” says Rachel Brisley, a Yorkshire-based technical director in climate services for JBA Consulting, and co-author of the report. “We are very adaptable as a species and can cope with higher temperatures, but we do need to consider our living environment.”   

One prominent concern is new-build homes that have been heavily insulated to comply with building regulations but in some cases without the adequate ventilation to disperse properly the heat in summer. In recent weeks, some people living in new-build properties have complained about sweltering temperatures as the heat is trapped inside.

“A lot of focus has been on making homes energy efficient, which is a very good thing but we have not been setting ourselves up to deal with heatwaves,” says Betts. “You might have a low carbon home but it could still overheat in summer.”

Our homes will also change in other ways. Brisley says we should invest in shutters and blinds and on extremely hot days fight our instincts by keeping the windows firmly closed. Pale choice of paint colours will reflect the light and heat rather than absorbing them, and some experts advise fitting a protective film to windows to filter UV rays from the sun.

Increased flood risk, too, will also require a rethink of the layout of our homes. In properties at risk of flooding, experts advise moving plug sockets high up the walls, replacing the lower steps on a flight of stairs with concrete instead of wood, pulling up ground floor carpets and tiling with waterproof adhesive and grout, using water-resistant plaster, placing appliances such as fridges and water tanks on raised plinths and having a wall-mounted television.

The issue is cost. In 2017, the Building Research Establishment estimated the total outlay of creating a fully flood-resistant home to be about £60,000. Currently, this money is often made available in grants following extreme flooding events, although it is widely agreed we need to be far more proactive in transforming our housing stock.

Yes, it’s the absurd Joe Shute again!

If he had actually bothered to examine the data himself, he might instead have written something sensible.

Take summer temperatures, for instance. The hottest summer was in 1976, and even the warm summer of 2018 was not as hot as 1826.

There is certainly nothing in the data which suggests we are heading for a sub-tropical Britain:

Then there’s the nonsense about flash floods, which even the Met Office have been forced to admit are not getting worse because of global warming.

If we look at summer rainfall at Oxford, there is no evidence whatsoever that it is getting more extreme. If anything, the opposite is true:

Given that Shute’s whole premise about sub-tropical weather is false, I think we can safely ignore the rest of his article about the need to spend £60k on adapting our homes!

This really is a disgraceful piece of so-called journalism.


July 30, 2021