Dramatic increases in the number extreme heat days (35°C+) present an increasing threat to the health and wellbeing of Townsville residents.
New research from the Australia Institute’s HeatWatch initiative, which uses CSIRO–BoM modelling, shows that the number of extreme heat days experienced in Townsville could increase up to thirty times above historic levels and that almost 200 nights per year could remain above the 25-degree threshold by 2090.
“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.
“This will have serious implications for the health and safety for the large proportion of the Townsville workforce. Many defence personal, construction, farming, mining and manufacturing workers are regularly required to do heavy work outdoors or in un-air conditioned buildings.
“There is no temperature level threshold for halting heavy outdoor work in Queensland. If these workers are to avoid injury, this will need to change and people will have to work less in the heat.
“If these increases eventuate, there will be many impacts on local economy. Workforce productivity will fall. The region will become less attractive for tourists. Fires will increase and infrastructure including roads, rail and power supply will be put at risk.
“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.”