Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery. Picture: Andy Baker Source: The Daily Telegraph
THE nation’s leading climate change expert has again warned of dire weather events – but this time his predictions centre on western Sydney.
In a report to be released today, climate commissioner Professor Tim Flannery said the region’s temperatures would rise sharply in coming years, leading to violence and more cases of mental illness.
The commission said western suburbs were suffering from “an urban island heat effect” with concrete, buildings and asphalt raising temperatures by 1C to 2C.
The commission’s Professor Lesley Hughes said last night deaths should also be expected if the forecasts of more severe heatwaves were realised.
The horror predictions in the report come after a cool summer with the longest run of days under 30C in 15 years.
“We know mortality goes up in heatwaves. If we get heat waves in western Sydney, yes, we would expect to see that (deaths),” Prof Hughes said.
Asked about mental health and other impacts raised in the report, she said heatwaves led to surges in violence.
“The police actually know, this was brought out in our previous report, when you get several days of extreme hot weather, they have more problems, there’s more violence, people are cranky and prone to violent outbursts,” she said.
Heat combined with poorer air quality could mean hospitals, which already experienced more emergency cases on hot days, recorded a 40 per cent jump in admissions from 2020-30 and a 200 per cent increase from 2050-60, the commission will claim, based on a report from 2008.
If extreme weather caused power outages, the climate scientists feared serious health impacts if blackouts caused “food to spoil due to improper refrigeration, or be contaminated due to inadequate cooking, leading to illness”.
The report said hot days had already increased 60 per cent in western Sydney since 1970 and days in Sydney above 35C would balloon from 3.3 in 2008 to 14 in 2100.
From 1970 to 2011, the number of days over 35C in NSW jumped by up to 7.5 per decade.
Prof Hughes said the cooler, wetter summer was a case of day-to-day weather.
However she said the warnings were based on long term analysis of climate change.
But James Cook University Adjunct Professor Bob Carter, an environmental scientist, rubbished the predictions.
“So what. There is always going to be more or fewer hot days per decade,” he said.
He claimed forecasting models to project warming, used by the UN, were wrong and that claims made about the start of this century had proven wrong.
“Those same computer models predicted there would be two-tenths of a degree of warming between the turn of the century and 2010 – in fact we had no warming at all.
“If you bring it out to 2012, we have had a slight cooling.”
The Climate Commission report will be released today ahead of a forum with Prof Flannery, Prof Hughes and fellow Commissioner Will Steffen at Parramatta RSL club tomorrow night.