Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More aged deaths predicted due to increase in extreme heat

Adam Morton 
The Age, March 26, 2009

THE number of elderly Melburnians dying due to extreme heat is expected to rise dramatically as climate change takes hold this century, research suggests.

Heat stress is also projected to hit workplaces, with more regular oppressive days affecting productivity.

A separate study found the projected increase in bushfires would reduce air quality, leading to more cases of potentially fatal respiratory illness.

Nicole Joffe from consultants Net Balance found the number of days with an average temperature above 30 degrees would double by mid-century - from two to at least four a year - even if governments acted to cut greenhouse emissions. Failure to tackle climate change would trigger a steeper rise.

In the past, extreme heat in this range has increased deaths among Melburnians aged 65 and older by nearly a fifth.

Ms Joffe said her results posed questions about how people adapt to climate change.

"We need to look at air-conditioning and evaporative cooling as a start, but we also need policymakers to drive innovation in the area so we can find other solutions," she said from the Greenhouse 2009 conference in Perth.

Separate work by the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research found future bushfires were likely to substantially increase pollution over the city, undoing work to improve air quality over the past two decades.

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