Feeling the heat of climatechange? Extreme temperatures are raising our ire

January 29, 2018 at 3:02 pm Leave a comment

Last night the temperature in Melbourne (Olympic Park) didn’t go below 27.8 degrees Celsius with the humidity hovering between 40-50 percent. It came after a maximum temperature of 37.7C. Of course temperatures in the northern and western suburbs were up to 1-2 degrees higher.

Sunday also saw a record power usage, as people used their air conditioners to cool down. Although grid demand was at a record high for a Sunday of about 9,440MW, rooftop solar was contributing about 330MW.

There were power losses, but not due to loss of generation capacity, but problems in the transmission network and with local transformers. Extreme heat can impact generation but also cause network and capacity issues resulting in localised loss of power. The power outages on Saturday and Sunday are up to the Network Transmission companies to repair.

There were the voices such as Matthew Guy, opposition leader and parliamentary Leader of the State Liberal Party saying that these losses wouldn’t have happened if Hazelwood Power station hadn’t of closed.

This is an absolute lie with no basis in fact. Firstly, this was a commercial decision by a foreign owner. Secondly, AEMO have made assurances there is adequate power in the grid for contingencies. Thirdly, there have been multiple failures from our ageing coal plants demonstrating that coal is unreliable source of power generation in extreme heat (read the Australia Institute report on coal unreliability. Fourthly, if you want to blame these network failures, blame the privatisation of the transmission networks that occurred 20 years ago under the Liberal Party regime of Premier Jeff Kennett.

Read also Sophie Vorath in RenewEconomy: Victorian networks blow a fuse in heatwave – Coalition blows its mind on Twitter

We know that extreme heat impacts coal fired generation, results in increasing transmission losses. It also affects public transport, can melt roads, and can reduce efectiveness and response times of human services including our emergency services. We need to be upgrading our infrastructure to cope with the extreme heat we will experience in future years. This includes adequate planning for a rapid energy transition to 100 per cent renewables including dispatchable power solutions incorporating pumped hydro and battery storage, and demand management.

Yup, too bloody hot at Laverton in Melbourne’s west.

Extreme heat is a health issue which causes increase in medical consultations, ambulance callouts and hospital emergency visits. A wide range of people are particularly vulnerable including babies and young children, the elderly, people on medication or suffering obesity. Heat Health alerts were issued for all Victorian regions on Saturday.

It is a fact that more people die due to extreme heat events than any other natural disaster. People have probably died due to the heat over the last few days. It will show up eventually in statistics as ‘excess deaths’, as part of hospital mortality and morbidity statistics when compared to a similar period without the extreme heat.

While people in bushfire prone areas now need to have bushfire action plans to understand when to stay and fight a fire and when to evacuate, with extreme heat people also need to have heatwave action plans about how to cope with extreme heat events, and when infrastructure breaks down, where you can seek refuge or respite. Read the Conversation: Australia’s ‘deadliest natural hazard’: what’s your heatwave plan?.

Recent scientific studies have highlighted that it is getting hotter faster in our cities, and that 50 degree Celsius heat extremes are possible within a decade or so. This is a major heat health problem and concern.

Read the Climate Council’s recent report ‘2017: Record-breaking Year for Heat and Extreme Weather

The best time for action was 20 years ago, but we haven’t got a time machine so we need to bear the consequences of our inaction in past years and act as rapidly as possible now to reduce emissions and limit the consequences into the future.

Every email, every letter, every phone call to your state and Federal MP is important in getting them to act. Every call and email to the state and Federal Environment Ministers is important. We need policy action at the very top levels of all three levels of Government, as well as action from business and individuals.

We are in a climate emergency that will last for decades, and will get worse before it gets better.

Here is how the last couple of days of extreme heat unfoldered via our twitter commentary:

Entry filed under: climate change info, heatwave.

Study: 50 degree extreme heat days possible in Melbourne Film Screening: ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’ followed by discussion

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