People of color in the U.K. are four times as likely to live in areas most vulnerable to heat waves, study finds

July 20, 2022, 4:39 PM UTC
Heat wave in the U.K.
Communities of color in the U.K. are four times more likely to live in the hottest areas.
Rasid Necati Aslim—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

People of color in the U.K. are four times more likely than White people to live in areas most vulnerable to heat waves, with scientists warning that scorching temperatures will become increasingly common.

A study by the University of Manchester and Friends of the Earth said that people of color account for 28% of the population in districts most affected by heat waves. Housing in these areas is less equipped to cope with high temperatures, and the neighborhoods often lack green spaces and natural shade.

The report said a person of color has a one-in-three chance of living in an at-risk area, compared to a White person with a one-in-12 chance.

“We need to know who is most vulnerable to the health impacts of global heating so we know where to prioritize any measures to help impacted communities,” researchers wrote in the report. “Action to reduce inequalities, necessary in themselves, will also reduce heat-risk.” 

Friends of the Earth recommended measures such as green infrastructure and planting trees, as well as improving ventilation and insulation in housing. 

Soaring temperatures in Britain alongside much of Europe sparked alarm this week as part of a devastating heat wave which buckled train tracks and led fire services to declare ‘major incidents’ across the country. The research found that Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney in London, and the cities of Birmingham and Nottingham are most exposed in dangerously hot weather. They are also some of the areas with the highest proportions of ethnic minorities in the country.

At the weekend a fire blazed through a warehouse for South London’s Brixton market, a hub which has historically catered to the Black community, where 12 traders were storing their goods. The inferno required over 100 firefighters to bring it under control.

“I have to start again from zero,” said Sarwar Amarkhim, who saw all his stock of men’s clothing and accessories destroyed in the fire, in a statement for a fundraiser for the traders. “I have been building this business for 10 years and now I have nothing to show for it.”

The Black population will also be particularly vulnerable not only during heat waves to come, but also in the winter following another expected hike in energy prices, as it is the ethnic group which spends more disposable income on energy than any other.

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