The Summer’s Gonna Get You 2

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From Climate Scepticism


If you are reading this then you must be one of the few to have survived this afternoon’s pleasant sunshine. I congratulate you on your survival skills but must warn you that there will be much more pleasant weather to come. By all means put another shrimp on the barbie, but may your God be with you. Meanwhile, the fact that you are still there gives me the chance to correct a major error in my previous assessment of the UKHSA’s heat-health alert system.

You see, the problem is that when I confidently pronounced that the UKHSA were introducing a heat alert system without considering the greater importance of a cold alert system, I had fallen for another of the BBC’s scams. The basis for my mistake was the BBC’s description of the UKHSA’s alert levels. Specifically they reported that:

Yellow alerts will be issued during periods of hot weather that are only likely to affect those who are particularly vulnerable, for example, the elderly or those with existing health conditions.

Fortunately for the readers of Cliscep we have the ever-inquisitive Jit, who drew my attention to the UKHSA’s Adverse Weather Health Plan.

Now I love plans, me. So as soon as I learnt of this plan’s existence I was all over it. In particular, I was keen to see how the alert levels were defined in that plan. Here is what the UKHSA actually said regarding yellow alerts:

Yellow (response): These alerts cover a range of situations. Yellow alerts may be issued during periods of heat/cold which would be unlikely to impact most people, but could impact those who are particularly vulnerable.

Yes folks, it turns out that the UKHSA has every intention of covering cold extremes, but the BBC in its verifying wisdom thought better than to point this out. Naughty BBC! How many times have I told you that facts have to be a reflection of reality?

I feel quite ashamed to have fallen for this crude deception but it just goes to show that even the most cynical amongst us can, from time to time, let their guard down. You could witness my blushes if it were not for the fact that, in a momentary loss of concentration, I stepped outside just after lunch and was immediately struck down with a sunburn that is already peeling and pustulating, transforming my face into pizza margherita.

But whilst I’m on the subject of the UKHSA’s plan, there is one important detail that I picked up on that may have a bearing upon all our futures. Tucked away in section they say this:

A quality management system (QMS) for the AWHP is currently being initiated and will be developed in accordance with the BS EN ISO 9001:2015.

Now call me a nit-picker, but I would have thought it would have been better to have developed a QMS before the plan had been written. That way a quality assurance check might have noticed that, despite espousing the principle of evidence-based decision making, the primary goal of the proposed alert system, i.e. to ‘Prevent the increase in years of life lost due to adverse weather events’ is actually counter-evidential. Just to remind you what the Office of National Statistics says:

Over a 20-year period the estimated change in deaths associated with warm or cold temperature was a net decrease of 555,094, an average of 27,755 deaths per year.

Furthermore, any half-decent review would have picked up the fact that the plan does not specify how the health impact alerts are related to environmental conditions in a quantifiable manner. As a consequence, there seems no independent way in which the appropriateness of the issuing of alerts may be verified. You can’t expect to implement a quality assurance regime if the metrics for quality have not been objectively defined. This is how the likes of you and I become puzzled when alerts are escalated from yellow to amber with no obvious basis for the escalation. Also, if they want to make a subsequent claim for cost-effectiveness, they will need a good argument for professing a number of lives saved. I can’t even begin to think how they might do that.

But I quibble. Lack of accountability, and having a primary goal of addressing a problem that does not exist, are just details. I say keep on alerting us UKHSA. I understand that tonight will be warm and humid and I may have to turn my electric blanket off. Pray for me and stay strong. Together we can get through this.


From Climate Scepticism