Politician education needed for next Government on Heatwaves

November 28, 2014 at 8:31 am Leave a comment

20140214-NCCARF-melbourne-heat-vulnerability

Source: Loughnan, ME, Tapper, NJ, Phan, T, Lynch, K, McInnes, JA 2013, A spatial vulnerability analysis of urban populations during extreme heat events in Australian capital cities, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 128 pp.

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.

Source: Victorian Auditor General's Office report: Heatwave Management: Reducing the Risk to Public Health tabled in Parliament 14 October 2014

Source: Victorian Auditor General’s Office report: Heatwave Management: Reducing the Risk to Public Health tabled in Parliament 14 October 2014

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.


20141008-heatwaves-and-natural-hazard-fatalities

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

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Entry filed under: heatwave, Politician education, Victorian Government. Tags: , , .

The sleeping issue of climate change in the #vicvotes battle for Northcote Congratulations to Victorian Labor, now the climate action work starts

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