Australia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and the number of hot days, warm nights and heatwaves are all projected to increase over the 21st century. For the health sector and the wider community, the challenge is to treat both the cause and the symptoms of extreme heat.
This report explores the growing risk of extreme heat, the impact of heat on human health with respect to various communities and social groups, as well as heatwaves' impacts on health services. Future impacts, Australia's response to extreme temperatures and the necessity of tackling climate change for a healthy future are also analysed.
Key findings from the report include:
- Climate change is a serious health threat for many Australians
- As extreme heat events worsen, the risk of adverse human health impacts is increasing
- Heatwaves can put intense pressure on health services
- While the health sector has made significant steps in improving resilience to heatwave events, more needs to be done
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and deeply is the best way to protect Australians from worsening extreme heat events
National guidelines for assessing response needs and developing long-term community resilience to protect against extreme heat are required, alongside regional responses which reflect local factors. Without substantial action to achieve this, the health risks of worsening extreme heat events in Australia will remain a major challenge into the future.