As January maximum temperatures spike into the high 30s and low 40s (degrees Celsius) and minimum overnight temperatures approach 30 degrees, we have had our first Heat Health alert issued by the Victorian Department of Health for 2015.
On Friday 2 January 2015 heatwave conditions enveloped much of southeast Australia with temperatures reaching 43.3C in Adelaide and 38.7C in Melbourne.
Overnight temperatures on Friday night (2 January) hovered about 30 degrees in Melbourne and 24.5C in Adelaide. These minimum temperatures are more than enough to disrupt sleep adding to heat stress and associated heat-related health emergencies. (see Grunstein, Too Hot to Sleep? Here’s why, The Conversation, 8 January 2013).
Although Melbourne was predicted to exceed 40C on Saturday (3 January) the temperature only reached 37.7C at 3.30pm. That afternoon a storm front brought some rain and relief, a cool change plunging the mercury just before 6pm.
The new Victorian Government has moved quickly to ensure the continuance of the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) scheme that the previous Liberal Government were preparing to abolish.
Increasing energy efficiency provides a double saving of reducing green house gas emissions and energy costs. It is one of the main methods the International Energy Agency suggests as necessary for tackling carbon emissions, already making a substantial contribution to mitigation efforts, even in Australia.
Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced on 19 December 2014 that the Victorian Government will retain the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) scheme which will save 2000 jobs.
“Energy efficiency is one of the best ways for homes and businesses to reduce bills and greenhouse gas emissions.” said Lily d’Ambrosio.
Climate Action Moreland congratulates the election of the Daniel Andrews led Labor Government in Victoria and are hopeful for strong progress on climate mitigation and adaptation programs at the State level with this new Government.
We also congratulate Labor MPs Jane Garrett (Brunswick), Lizzie Blandthorn (Pascoe Vale) and Frank McGuire (Broadmeadows) on being elected to the Legislative Assembly to represent the citizens of Moreland.
Our congratulations also to our MPs elected to the Legislative Council for Northern Metro region:
- Jenny Mikakos and Nazih Elasmar (Labor)
- Craig Ondarchie (Liberal)
- Greg Barber (Greens)
- Fiona Pattern (Australian Sex Party)
Our thanks to all the candidates who attended our climate forum for the election to explain their party policies and personal views on taking effective action in tackling climate change. These public forums are important avenues for direct community debate.
As an active community group we endeavour to have robust discussion and debate on climate action with all our representatives from every level of government: from Local Councillors, State MPs, to our Federal MPs and Senators.
We look forward to working and engaging positively with ALL our elected State Government representatives over the next 4 years to bring about substantive action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
In particular, as residents of Moreland this means the impact of increasing temperatures and heatwave events and increase in intensity of storm events.
On Monday Brunswick Greens candidate Tim Read was on the Beyond Zero Emissions show broadcast on Monday 24 November. Also on the show was Lily D’Ambrosio, the Labor Member for Mill Park and the Shadow Minister for Energy and resources, Cost of Living and the Suburbs.
I have interviewed Tim Read and he has a good knowledge of the impacts of climate change and particularly heatwave impacts on human health which are are more likely to be experienced in heavily urbanised areas with climate change amplifying the urban heat island effect.
A recent report tabled in parliament by the Victorian Auditor General’s Office identified critical deficiences in heatwave emergency response. Over 500 people in the last 5 years are estimated to have died as a result of heatwaves in Victoria.
During the show Read asked a question of D’Ambrosio. Her response was very inadequate, in which she talked off topic and didn’t really answer the question. We have been given short shrift by 4 years of a Liberal Government, and if this response is anything to go by, we need to educate these MPs that peoples lives depends on good governance and strategic emergency management. Importantly, we need to have good plans in place to manage multiple emergencies at once. When heatwaves occurr, not only do we have a health emergency from the heat, but we are also much more likely to also have bushfires occurring which must be managed simultaneously.
Here is the interaction that I transcribed from the Beyond Zero Emmissions radio show
Lily D’Ambrosio on the government health response to heatwaves
Tim Read: I was a bit concerned Lily, and thankyou for coming on the show, about the excess deaths attributed to heatwaves in 2009 and then again in January this year. I am wondering whether a new government, a Labor government, would be interested in improving the state government response, particularly the health response to heatwaves?
Lily D’Ambrosio: I am not going to be making any policy announcements on the radio and on the run. Definitely not. But we are acutely aware that the extreme variations in temperatures do have a strong impact, and sometimes a devastating impact on health and livelihood and it is very important that these issues are looked at. That there is a capacity for communities to become more resilient and certainly have more opportunities to protect themselves through heatwaves and cold snaps. We know that with gas prices about to surge to unparalleled levels that many parts of Victoria like Bendigo and Ballarat where it gets very cold and there is a high reliance on gas for heating, that there is going to be some significant challenges there for communities in terms of being able to keep warm. The state Government has done those communities no favours by putting caps on the energy concessions and we are going to be looking very carefully at the impact of that if we are lucky to be elected this coming weekend.
Vivien (Compare): I have something to add to that from one of our loyal listeners from Mudgee who sent a text message this morning saying “Can you say on air that Mudgee has broken all records last weekend – 42 degrees – broken all the records they have ever kept. People are really quite frightened of that. This is becoming the norm and how are they going to cope? And I think they do require the State Government to put in place more emergency services, and like places to shelter. I would like to see all the churches open for example, the school halls, so that people, civil society is organised to cope, and it is not just this huge mass of people turning up at emergency departments when they could have been prevented from going there.
Lily D’Ambrosio: There is a will, and a great benevolence across our community in greater need, whether it is at times of flood or fire disasters and the like, there is that great willingness. You need to believe the science and accept the science. We need to then aknowledge there is a role to be played, a leadership role at all levels of government and we know that some local governments have been very pro-active, state governments also can be that, importantly too, and the best scenario is all levels of government and all sides of politics to understand that we have gone beyond questioning the science. It is a ludicrous situation where we have debates and we pull scientists into a political slanging match and use them as dart boards. The fact is they are above that. The minute we understand that we will all be the better for it to take the necessary bipartisan steps.
Vivien (Compare): I think it is a tragedy that might take us all out. It is so bad. The delay.
Lily D’Ambrosio: and that is why programs such as yours are very important, and we need to get on with it and start some pro-active steps to turnaround our situation. That is going to be a big effort, but small efforts can result in big improvements. Why we need to support communities, however small or large their proposals might be at all levels: from community right through to scale projects.
Deaths due to heat events exceed all other extreme weather causes including bushfires, and the trend is going to get worse as temperatures rise with climate change unless we can mitigate some of the worst impacts and learn to adapt what we can’t mitigate.
Can I suggest Ms D’Ambrosia that a big first step would be to read that Victorian Auditor General Office report on Heatwave Management for Victoria?
We need to have better governance in place and this should start with our representatives in parliament. It is part of their duty of care to ensure safe conditions for citizens of Victoria. And heatwaves exacerbated by the climate change trend, definitely pose a risk to health, especially to many vulnerable groups in the community.
Once they understand the impacts maybe they will increase their flimsy climate policies, released on 26 November without any fanfare.
Victorian Auditor General’s Office (2014) Heatwave Management: Reducing the Risk to Public Health. Report tabled in State Parliament 14 October 2014
To start you off Lily, here is a presentation I prepared in March 2014 on heatwaves climate change and Melbourne
Rivalry is not unknown between the Council areas of Darebin and Moreland with the valley of the Merri Creek that divides the two municipalities. But we also share many similar cultural aspects and levels of development and many of the same issues and problems. We will also feel the impacts of climate change in a similar manner through increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves and hotspells. Like in Brunswick, Northcote has an interesting story this election with Climate Action Moreland’s equivalent grassroots activists in Darebin Climate Action Now playing a pivotal role.
Like in Brunswick, the seat of Northcote is one of those inner northern city electorates in Melbourne where the Greens vote has been steadily growing. This state election it has proved to be a particularly nasty battle-ground between the ALP’s Fiona Richardson (Unipollwatch profile) and the Greens Trent McCarthy (Unipollwatch profile) with the intervention of Federal Labor MP David Feeney into the fray.
Both the Liberal and Labor parties have avoided talking about climate change in this election and Northcote is a good example of this bipartisan silencing of debate on climate policy. Candidates from both major parties refused to attend a Climate Q and A forum in the electorate on November 12. The group that organised this forum, Darebin Climate Action Now is an active group that has been quietly talking about the issue and impacts of climate change in this community for a number of years educating voters bit by bit.
A lively state election candidate’s climate forum at the Coburg Town Hall on Monday evening (17th of November) saw Moreland-based State election candidates discuss and argue the implications of wide range of climate impacts and their interaction with other policies. Candidates clashed on topics around buying back energy assets, and the impact of Moreland’s contentious development policies like the recently approved Coburg strategy on Climate change.
The forum, organised by Climate Action Moreland (CAM) and endorsed by five other environmental groups*, was attended by ten candidates who openly shared their views on climate change and their proposed policies for action to reduce human impacts on climate change.
Lower House candidates in the seats of Brunswick, Pascoe Vale and Broadmeadows as well as Upper House candidates in the Northern Metropolitan region were invited to the forum. Candidates attending included independent candidate Peter Allan and representatives from The Australian Greens, the Animal Justice Party, the Sex Party, Socialist Alliance, Save the Planet, Voice from the West, and the Liberal Party. There was lively discussion between all the candidates about renewable energy targets, public transport, cycling infrastructure, agricultural practices, urban planning and energy efficiency.
Despite five Labour candidates being invited, the Labor party chose not to provide representation to explain their climate change policies, or apparent lack thereof. CAM members strongly believe that Labor missed an opportunity to join in and speak to their constituents from across three electorates. Labor currently holds the lower house seats in Brunswick, Pascoe Vale and Broadmeadows. While Broadmeadows and Pascoe Vale are safe Labor seats, Brunswick is a marginal Labor / Green seat, yet Labor continues to remain silent on their environment and climate change policies.
Groups in neighbouring suburbs who have organised candidates forums have noted the non-attendance of Labor and Liberal candidates at environment focused forums. Both major parties shunned a recent climate forum in Northcote and the Uniting Church’s forum in Pascoe Vale.
“It’s a shame in an election that’s had very little attention on environmental issues, that the Labor party missed an opportunity to put themselves on the record. We had a forum that ran the gamut from the Liberal party to Socialist Alliance, and Labor chose not to be part of that conversation” lamented Michael Stanley from Climate Action Moreland.
CAM were impressed with the turn-out at the forum and felt that the candidates in attendance provided valuable insight into their climate change policies, but were disappointed that the Labor candidates chose not attend. CAM believes that residents of Moreland are very concerned about climate change, as it is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and that action to reduce human impacts on the environment needs to be at the forefront of political policy.
Climate campaigner and Climate Action Moreland member Andrea Bunting stated: “I believe Australians are ashamed about our country’s current stance on climate change. Candidates who refuse to discuss climate policies do so at their own peril.”
Notes: * The Forum was endorsed by Australian Youth Climate Council, Moreland Bicycle Users Group, 350.org, Moreland Community Against the Tunnel.
Embedded videos of 8 candidate party presentations are available from youtube and at:
Photos of this election forum are available for use from John Englart’s Flickr Site – all with Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.
Our Climate Forum for Moreland drew candidates from the seats of Brunswick, Pascoe Vale and Broadmeadows, and also for the Melbourne Northern Metro Region Legislative Council.
There were eight candidate party policy presentations made including from candidates representing The Greens, Animal Justice Party, Save the Planet, Australian Sex Party, Socialist Alliance, Liberal Party, and Voice for the West, and from Peter Allan a community independent.