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The UK experienced its hottest June on record, with confirmation from the Met Office coming as the Sunak government received mounting criticism over its response to climate change.
Met Office data, which goes back to 1884, showed the average temperature for the month of 15.8C was 2.5C higher than average, and exceeded by 0.9C the previous highest average June temperature recorded in 1940 and 1976.
Records were broken in 72 of 97 areas in the UK from where temperature data is collected. “Alongside natural variability, the background warming of the Earth’s atmosphere due to human induced climate change has driven up the possibility of reaching record high temperatures,” said Paul Davies, the Met Office’s chief meteorologist.
The Met Office confirmation came on the same day as the UK Environmental Audit Committee launched a new inquiry on heat resilience that will throw a spotlight on government policy. Between June and August 2022, heatwaves killed 3,271 people, the majority aged over 65.
The committee flagged the need to find sustainable cooling methods, noting that in June Britain broke its 46 day run of coal-free electricity generation to meet demand for air conditioning.
“Climate change is causing hotter summers for us all, and we must learn to adapt better,” said EAC chair and Conservative member of parliament Philip Dunne. “The number of heat-related deaths is already too high, and the trend seems to be upwards.”
The UK had its sunniest June since 1957, and just 68 per cent of its average rainfall for the month. Scientists also found that the likelihood of another June beating the previous record of 14.9C had doubled since the 1940s, and eight out of the 12 months have had an average temperature record set since 2006.
The Met Office predicts that the first half of July will bring slightly below average to average temperatures, with an increased likelihood of hot spells in the latter half.
The Sunak government has come under increasing fire over its lacklustre approach to climate change. The independent Climate Change Committee said in its report last week that the UK had “lost its global leadership” role.
A lack of ministerial drive gave the committee “markedly less” confidence from a year ago that the UK’s 2030 climate goals would be met, it said. In March, the government admitted its net zero strategy would fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to achieve its own legally enforceable targets.
Greenpeace UK’s head of climate Mel Evans said “temperature records are falling like domino tiles as our addiction to fossil fuels keeps cooking the planet. Yet while the dashboard is ablaze with flashing red lights, the prime minister somehow still manages to remain asleep at the wheel.”
The prime minister was also the subject of a scathing attack by outgoing environment minister Zac Goldsmith, who accused Rishi Sunak of being “uninterested” in climate change, axing a promise to spend £11.6bn in related aid and tearing up domestic and international commitments.
Polling by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit non-profit organisation before the May local elections found that 76 per cent of voters supported the net zero target and about 53 per cent thought the government should be doing more to tackle climate change.
“Toppling temperature records are a reminder if one were needed of the growing impact of the changing climate,” said ECIU director Peter Chalkley.
“There’s a fair amount of political debate over net zero, but this often misses the point that unless we get to net zero emissions, more emissions are still going into the atmosphere and the heatwaves and other extremes continue to get worse.”
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