The global climate system is changing and this is expected to have growing impacts on UK weather patterns.
Modelling from the Met Office suggests that summer temperatures are likely to increase in the coming years leading to an increase in heatwaves; while extreme weather events such as high river flows and flooding are also projected to increase in frequency and intensity due to shifts in rainfall patterns (for further details see climate change resilience and risks to health).
“By 2020 Kent could be facing an average annual 1.4ºC temperature increase and 7% less rainfall in summer. By 2050 the temperature could have risen by 2.8ºC, and there could be 24% less rainfall. In an extreme case the temperature on the annual hottest day in the 2050s could reach 8 ºC higher than those experienced now.”
Such changes could have potentially significant impacts on the health and wellbeing of people in Kent and Medway. The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, for example, suggests that the number of flood victims suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental problems could double by 2050. On top of this, the annual damage to UK properties due to flooding from rivers, surface water run-off and the sea is projected to rise from £1.3 billion to £12 billion each year by the 2080s. Local evidence of climate change impacts, such as the Local Flood Risk Management Strategy indicates that Kent is the most at risk lead local flood authority in England with approximately 76,000 properties estimated to be at risk of surface water flooding, and more in future as a result of climate change.
In Kent the areas likely to have the greatest impact on resident’s health are:
- Flooding (injury, infection, mental health impacts);
- Mortality and morbidity related to temperature (respiratory and cardiovascular diseases);
- Food, water and vector borne diseases (increased incidence of infections);
- Air Quality (covered in later sections – (respiratory and cardiovascular diseases);
- Vulnerability of infrastructure and built environment (e.g. extreme events such as droughts and storms may increasingly impact on service delivery).
Full details of the health impacts of each of these issues for Kent are provided in the Sustainability Needs Assessment chapter of the JSNA. The Environment Agency’s Under the Weather toolkit also provides a useful table (p.6) summarising the effects of climate change on health, wellbeing, and the health and social care system.
The diagram below provides an overview of the potential health impacts of ongoing climate change split by rural, urban and coastal communities.