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UK summer temperatures may hit 40C even if global warming is limited to 1.5C, scientists warn – Sky News

British summers may regularly hit 40C (104F) even if the global warming target set out by the Paris Agreement is met, meteorologists have said.

The Royal Meteorological Society says such highs could become the new normal regardless of whether global temperatures are limited to a 1.5C (2.7F) rise above pre-industrial levels.

Wild weather has been a feature of this UK summer thus far, with scorching sunshine, pouring rain and powerful thunderstorms all making an appearance – and it comes after what was a record-setting year in 2020.

It’s been revealed that last year was the first since records began to rank in the top 10 for heat, rainfall and sunshine, painting a clear picture of how climate change is already measurably impacting the UK.

The figures come from the Met Office’s State of the UK Climate 2020 report, which found that it was the third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest year on record.

Last year was one of the wettest, sunniest and warmest year's since 1919
Image: Last year was one of the sunniest years since 1919

The report also found that the top 10 warmest years for the UK in records back to 1884 have occurred since 2002.

Data for the last 30 years shows that the period 1991-2020 was 0.9C (1.62F) warmer and also 6% wetter than the preceding 30 years.

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Six of the 10 wettest years for the UK since 1862 have happened since 1998.

In light of the statistics, a senior Met Office’s scientist has admitted he’s “worried” about what the future holds.

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Met Office senior climate scientist Mike Kendon told Sky News: “Climate change isn’t just something that’s going to happen in the future, Climate change is something that is happening now.

“What these observations are showing us is that we are seeing this emerging pattern of more high-temperature extremes in the UK, but we’re also seeing more rainfall extremes for the UK, obviously as our climate warms, a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture.

“I’m worried. As a scientist, I’m worried looking at these observations.

“I’m a dad. I worry about the future for my children.”

According to the Met Office, 2020 was the fifth wettest on record
Image: According to the Met Office, 2020 was the fifth wettest on record

The report comes as the government announced it will spend £860m on flood defence schemes this year across the country to help protect “thousands of homes and businesses”.

According to the Environment Agency, the spending is part of £5.2bn in funding for flood protection, due to be spent over the next six years to help protect against the worst impacts of climate change.

The newly published Flood and Coastal Erosion investment plan will better protect 336,000 properties, the government says, helping to avoid “£32bn in wider economic damages and reducing national flood risk by 11%”. 

All of the warmest years on record have been since 2004, according to Met Office data
Image: All of the warmest years on record have been since 2004, according to Met Office data

Despite the funding, Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said that there is no way to fully protect every property and business at risk.

Referring to recent weather events in parts of Europe and China, she said: “We have seen some devastating flooding around the world so far this summer.

“No one can prevent all flooding and climate change means the risk is increasing, but we can reduce the risks.”

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Sky News has launched the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

The Daily Climate Show is broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

Hosted by Anna Jones, it follows Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show also highlights solutions to the crisis and how small changes can make a big difference.

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