Dramatic increases in the number extreme heat days (35°C+) present an increasing threat to the wellbeing of Whitsundays residents, and to key industries to the region such as agriculture and tourism.
New research from the Australia Institute’s HeatWatch initiative, which uses CSIRO–BoM modelling, shows that the number of extreme heat days experienced in the Whitsundays could increase fourfold by 2030 and reach over 87 days per year by 2090 without strong climate policies. Extreme heat nights (25°C+) are projected to rise from an average of 18 days per year up to 177 by 2090 – leaving little respite from the heat.
“Increasing temperatures combined with high humidity are likely to push many days each year to dangerous levels of heat stress,” says Mark Ogge, Principal Adviser at The Australia Institute.
“Heatwaves are a major health risk. Exposure to extreme heat is extremely dangerous to people’s health and can even be lethal. Heatwaves have killed more people in Australia than all other natural disasters combined including floods, bushfires and cyclones.
“These increases in extreme heat will have many impacts on the local economy. The region will become less attractive for tourists as the appeal to tourists is largely dependent on an amenable climate.
“The region will also see workplace productivity fall. Increases in extreme heat will have serious implications for the health and safety for the large proportion of the Whitsundays workforce – many of whom are employed in agriculture and tourism, industries where work is often outdoors, leaving employees exposed to the elements.
“There is no temperature level threshold for halting outdoor work in Queensland. If workers are to avoid injury, this will need to change and people will have to work less in the heat.
“Fortunately, this is not inevitable. CSIRO projections show that if we take action and reduce emissions, we can prevent virtually all of these rises. Better still, the policies that help us prevent extreme heat are also great for creating jobs, boosting the economy, more comfortable houses, better transport and lower power prices. It means reducing our emissions is a win-win situation.”