Heat-related deaths could increase almost fivefold by the middle of the century, according to an international report by more than 100 researchers released today.
- Researchers say Western Sydney will see pronounced impacts from extreme heat
- More than 100 researchers from 52 international institutions contributed to the report
- Co-author Ollie Jay from the University of Sydney says heat is a “silent killer”
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change report estimates heat-related deaths in people aged over 65 have already increased by 85 per cent over the past 30 years.
The report was co-authored by 114 researchers from 52 research institutions, including the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization.
Ollie Jay from the University of Sydney was one of those authors and said extreme heat caused more deaths than any other natural disasters in Australia.
“I think with respect to the effects of extreme heat on the human body, we know that heat is a silent killer,” Professor Jay said.
“It’s something that will hit the most vulnerable when they’re isolated inside their homes, often alone.”
The researcher, who leads the university’s Heat and Health Research Incubator, said urban “heat islands” like Western Sydney would see particularly pronounced impacts from extreme heat.
“If we look close to home here in New South Wales, residents of Western Sydney are exposed to extreme heat which far exceeds what we see in the CBD or on the eastern coast,” Professor Jay said.
He said the worst case scenario could be avoided with more immediate climate action.
“Those effects are going to be amplified as we move into the future unless we take drastic action.
“It’s really important that we think about the way in which we undertake these transitions to ensure that … everybody pays their fair share when it comes to trying to adapt to this inequitable future that we’re facing right now.”
Urban ‘heat islands’ swelter
Anoop Sud lives in a six-person multi-generational home in the Western Sydney suburb of Stanhope Gardens.
The 75-year-old grandfather said temperatures in his area have reached 49 degrees Celsius in previous heatwaves.
“With the blood boiling inside your body, inside your skin, it can affect your heart, it can affect your kidneys, it can affect your muscles,” the retired software engineer said.
“It starts affecting my blood pressure, it starts affecting my kidneys, it starts affecting the whole body structure.”
Mr Sud said the lack of green cover in Western Sydney was making the problem worse.
“If you look at Marsden Park, if you look at The Ponds, if you look at Schofields, where are the trees? Where is the green cover? Everything is becoming cemented.
“When I move around in the circles of the senior citizens that I have made friends in these areas, they are of a similar nature.”
Concerns for the most vulnerable
Diana Olmos from the Sydney Alliance has been running community forums across Western Sydney to discuss the impacts of intense heat.
“We’ve been listening to stories of everyday people that have been quite impacted by extreme heat,” she said.
“People have been affected with heat strokes, students, elderly people, and even young people.”
She said people attending those forums were anxious about the costs of cooling their homes as El Niño delivers a particularly hot, dry summer across the east coast.
“We’ve heard people being very anxious about the cost and how they were going to face the upcoming heating in summer, particularly because many of them were renters,” Ms Olmos said.
She said the lack of energy efficiency standards for rental homes meant vulnerable residents suffered more during extreme heat events.
“There is not any legislation that can tell a landlord to make a home a healthier place, like installing solar so tenants can use the air conditioning without being worried about energy bills,” Ms Olmos said.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-11-15/nsw-heat-deaths-who-report-western-sydney/103105210 Heat-related deaths could increase fivefold by middle of 21st century, WHO co-authored report says