Thursday, 3 March 2016

Climate change in Australia

Australia underprepared to deal with 'killer heat', Climate Council report says

Australia is underprepared to deal with the escalating problem of extreme "killer" heatwaves and a "whole of society approach" is needed to deal with the problem, a Climate Council report says.

2 March, 2016

There were more than 370 deaths during the heatwave of 2009 and climate forecasts indicate there will be longer, hotter and more intense heatwaves in future, according to The Silent Killer: Climate change and the impact of extreme heat.

The number of record hot days in Australia has doubled in the past 50 years.
Heatwaves have killed more Australians than any other natural hazard and have caused more deaths since 1890 than bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined, the report said.

The heat places "a dramatic demand" on public facilities such as hospitals and the system is so stretched there is no capacity to increase services.

In the 2009 heatwave, emergency callouts jumped by 46 per cent and there was a tripling of cardiac arrests.

"Our argument is no-one should die from heat in Australia," said Dr Liz Hanna, the report's author.

"We know it's hot, we know when it's coming, we know quite a lot about what's needed.

"What we need to do is just make this happen."

Australia needs to 'get very serious' about dealing with heatwaves

Dr Hanna said there needs to be greater 

flexibility in how hospitals operate, and extra capacity in the emergency services.
"It's not only boosting capacity to respond to what we've had, we need to plan to boost our capacity for what's yet to come because the worst hasn't really happened yet," she said.

That may include altering work schedules and school start times.

She said statistics from the United States showed some school children and secondary school children were dying from heat.

"Now we don't know the stats here. We hope there are none," she said.

Dr Hanna said it would take some time to really alter how society operated in terms of recognising that "extreme heat is such a killer".

"It's a whole of society approach. People need to look after themselves and look after each other," she said.

"It's everybody's business and that's why I think it's important for everyone to get involved in finding solutions to this [problem]."

The fact that sporting activities are still played in the hot weather is "sheer lunacy", Dr Hanna said.

"America shuts down with blizzards," she said.

"So Australia's probably looking at times where we really have to get very serious about what we do in these very hazardous heatwaves," she said.

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