Page 3476 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 October 2022
of extreme heat. Regional climate modelling has identified the four most significant impacts on the ACT. Those are: firstly, bushfires will become more frequent and severe as rainfall is reduced and temperatures increase; secondly, heat waves will become hotter, both day and night, longer and more frequent; thirdly, drought will become more frequent and prolonged as rainfall is seasonably more variable; and finally storms will become more frequent and severe over a longer summer season with flash flooding and violent winds.
When it comes to the health impacts of climate change, again there has been quite a bit in this discussion. One of the interesting factors that I do not think a lot of Australians know and are often surprised to find out, is that research shows that in Australia more people die during heatwaves than from all other natural disasters combined. I think we tend to think of bushfires and things as being a big threat to life but it is actually more people who die from heat exhaustion and the impacts of heat waves. That particularly applies to older people and actually younger people, infants are particularly vulnerable as well. So the prospect of hotter future summers is a very real issue when it comes to questions of human health.
We do need to prepare for the future climate to make sure we keep people safe, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community. That plays into important adaptation questions. For me those are the sort of practical things we are working on, making sure we have better canopy cover, making sure our homes and buildings are better insulated. These sorts of things are the practical policies which will not only make people’s lives more comfortable in the hotter drier future but actually in a very real sense save lives, because that is the reality of what we are talking about.
The ACT is recognised as the global leader on climate action and the members know the targets we have set in this place and we also have targets for achieving zero emissions from government operations by 2040. I did want to, in the context of this health debate, acknowledge that the health care sector represents around seven per cent of national emissions, at least when it was last researched in 2018. That means the health sector is a very significant area in which we can reduce emissions. I think there is a particular circularity there in understanding the impact if we do not tackle emissions that it will impact on our health system.
In that context and I know Minister Stephen-Smith mentioned this yesterday, but I do want to reinforce it because I think it was a good innovative piece of work, is the fact that the Canberra Hospital expansion will be all electric, which is an Australian first.
Having been involved a little bit in the discussions about that I think for me the measure of success is when that question was first raised, the possibility of it amongst those who were working on the technical side of it ranged from sort of fear to dread as to whether they could work it out. The important point is people actually sat down and worked through it, worked out what is possible, worked out that it economically stacked up and implemented the project. I want to acknowledge that in this debate. I think it is a great opportunity to do so because I think at the start people really did not think they could pull it off. When they actually applied themselves, did the work, did the research, talked to experts, they proved it was possible. It is a great case study