HEATWAVES AND HUMAN RIGHTS

The Australian Human Rights Centre at the University of New South Wales “aims to promote public awareness and academic scholarship about domestic and international human rights standards, laws and procedures through research projects, education programs and publications.” In keeping with these aims, the AHRC comments on the February heatwave.

In February 2017, Australia experienced one of its most extreme heatwaves on record. New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory were all affected by the extreme weather event.

My home state of New South Wales experienced its two hottest days on record. 10 February was 42.4 degrees Celsius, whilst 11 February was 44.02 degrees. The previous record had been set on 15 February 2004 at 41.99 degrees. NSW’s maximum temperatures for February have been 4 degrees above average.

The “two hottest days” link above leads not to the Bureau of Meteorology but to the less than impeccably reliable Sydney Morning Herald. The BOM February summary is less sensationalist:

  • February was the third-warmest on record for NSW average maximum temperatures, 3.0 °C above average and the warmest since 1926
  • Maximum temperatures were above average across most of the State and the warmest on record at more than 40 stations
  • The statewide average minimum temperature was 1.3 °C above average, with several stations recording their highest February mean daily minimum temperature on record
  • The statewide average mean temperature was the fifth-warmest on record and the warmest since 2004, with most of the northeast half of the State recording mean temperatures in the warmest 10% of years

Whereas high, February’s maximum temperatures did not exceed the 1939 49.7º maximum.

Back to the AHRC:

Heatwaves impose significant burdens on the affected areas. They cause power black-outsdisrupt public transportand cost local economies billions in lost productivity. They also pose health risks, placing strain on health and emergency services. Heat-related illness can cause irreversible damage and even death.

Such outcomes are already more common than you may think. Heatwaves are ‘responsible for more human deaths [in Australia] than any other natural hazard, including bushfires, storms, tropical cyclones and floods’. The 2009 heatwave in Victoria and South Australia killed 374 people in Victoria alone. Moreover, the number of heatwave-related deaths will increase rapidly in the next 33 years.

The 374 figure for 2009 is an estimate, with no death toll estimate so far available for 2017. The “increase rapidly” link is, of course to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Heatwaves are quite likely “responsible for more human deaths” in Australia than any other “natural hazard” other than disease. But Australians are extremely fortunate to live in such a hot climate: were we to experience the truly cold winters of the United States, many more people would die of cold than from heat.

People who have a lower socioeconomic status also face particular challenges during a heatwave. Many people’s homes and workplaces do not have air conditioning, and very few people have the freedom to simply change their circumstances. For example, switching on a fan might seem like a sensible response to a heatwave, but for a family on a tight budget, the electricity costs can be prohibitive.

As a retiree I’m on a tight budget and somehow managed to suffer through a West Australian summer without using any sort of cooling, even a fan.

Some people have no choice but to suffer through the debilitating heat, whereas other people can mostly keep themselves cool. This might explain why some people find it funny, whereas others are outraged, when Government ministers toss around a piece of coal in the Parliament.

We all have a lot to lose from climate change, but some people will lose more and sooner.

The two links immediately above are to the Guardian, so it’s almost certain at least one will express leftist outrage.

The Australian Human Rights Centre – think the Australian Human Rights Commission lite – has published this nonsense written by Sean Bowes, a student “in his final year of a combined Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws at the University of New South Wales.” It is truly unfortunate that Bowes and contemporaries are Australia’s leaders of tomorrow. We are doomed.

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