DURING this week’s searing heatwave, one stark comment stood out. It came from Tim Stock, who, having witnessed his family home of 60 years go up in flames, said: “It was like a scene from the Blitz.”

As smoke billowed over his home village in east London, Tom described the scene: “Down the main road, all the windows had exploded out, all the roofs had caved[in]…It was heart-breaking.”

The devastating blaze destroyed two rows of terraced houses as well as outbuildings, garages, stables and cars. Some 40 hectares of grassland were also burnt to a crisp. Thankfully, no one died.

On Monday, one tabloid newspaper berated “snowflake Britain” and mocked its “meltdown” over the heatwave while one of its columnists denounced the Met Office for echoing the “climate alarmist Blob” over its heat warnings.

The next day, when the mercury topped 40 degrees in several places across England, the London Fire Brigade received more than 2,600 calls, seven times the usual number, making it the busiest day since WW2.

In Scotland, a record temperature of 35.1C was reached in the Borders while Wales saw its own record high of 37.1C in Flintshire.

Experts are suggesting this week’s heatwave could well happen every three or four years and, as the temperature continues to climb, such extremes could last for several days at a time.

This has been happening on the continent, where France and Spain recorded around seven times more land burnt through to the middle of July than normal.

Public health statistics in Spain showed across seven days last week 510 deaths were attributed to the heatwave; 150 occurred in just 24 hours.

While suffering two days of scorching temperatures in the UK was bad enough, imagine having to endure a 40-degree heatwave for two weeks. The psychological and physical effects this would have on communities up and down the land doesn’t bear thinking about.

Amid the policy spat that is the Tory leadership contest, Alok Sharma, the COP26 President, threatened to resign if the winner did not stick by Britain’s 2050 net zero target. The Cabinet minister said “the last few days have been a real wake-up call for everyone” over the need to tackle climate change.

It was perhaps the grandest of ironies then, as the temperatures rose early this week, that a judge ruled the UK Government’s plan for reaching net zero emissions by 2050 was unlawful because it didn’t provided enough detail about how the target would be met.

The damning ruling follows last month’s view from the Government’s advisory Climate Change Committee, which said there was “scant evidence” of delivery against the Whitehall net zero target.

Amid Wednesday’s oppressive heat, Kit Malthouse, the Cabinet Office Minister, popped up to tell MPs that, having been told we must “learn to live” with Covid, we must do the same with extreme heatwaves.

He stressed how the UK had got through the latest one in “pretty good shape,” claimed there had been a “collective national endeavour” to prepare for and manage the effects of increased temperatures and stressed how a new national resilience strategy would be launched “at the earliest possible opportunity” - once we found out who the new PM was.

For Labour, Angela Rayner accused the Government of being “missing while Britain burns” and pointed out the promised strategy is almost a year overdue.

This week, the Institute for Government think-tank said the new Downing St incumbent should upgrade how the UK prepared for future extreme risks from heatwaves to pandemics and cyber-attacks with a new external body to “provide expert advice and scrutiny of the UK’s preparedness for extreme risks”.

In January, three months after the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the Government published the UK’s Third Climate Change Risk Assessment, which highlighted eight individual risks that could each cost the economy more than £1bn a year by 2050.

But it also pointed to the billions already being spent on flood defences, the Green Finance Strategy to lever private sector cash into clean, environmentally-sustainable projects and the integration of climate science into planning infrastructure. All of which is due to be brought together next year in a National Adaption Programme.

Last week, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, caused Westminster parliamentarians’ eyebrows to be raised when he addressed them on the climate crisis, using an array of slides reminiscent of his Covid briefings.

He explained: “We’ve had two and a half years of a global crisis in the form of a pandemic. We face 50 years of really big problems relating to climate and the nature of that threat to countries around the world means that this has to be one of the things that has to be on every government’s agenda.”

Sir Patrick then added: “There is no way we can pretend it isn’t happening.”

While some argue achieving net zero by 2050 is an arbitrary target, most agree this decade is by far the most important one if we are going to limit the climate damage we are doing and avoid leaving our children with a blighted inheritance.

After this week’s “heat event,” Hannah Cloke, a professor of hydrology at Reading University, made the right observation, saying: “If record-breaking weather extremes and energy price shocks that affect everyone don’t convince our leaders some serious stepping-up of policy is required, then I don’t know what will.”

Sadly, any concerted action to stop the planet from burning has come too late for Jose Antonio Gonzalez, who was among the 510 Spanish heatwave victims. The 60-year-old street sweeper died of heatstroke after collapsing during his shift in the oven that was Madrid.

The tragic irony is, that, according to his grieving son, one of the last things Jose did before he died was to look up on his computer what to do if he got heatstroke.

Whoever is the next PM and whoever follows them must do all they can to ensure that in future years summers are there to be enjoyed rather than feared.