How will global warming affect the health of city dwellers?
Climate change has important implications on the future health and wellbeing of people living in our largest cities.
Average temperatures are expected to rise in the next decade and along with this will be greater variations across the seasons.
Summers will come with more extreme temperature days whilst winters will have fewer chilly snaps. Both extreme heat and the cold increase the risk of poor health. Dehydration and exposure are potentially deadly to the very young and the frail elderly.
The cold comes with a different set of health risks with people indoors at greater risk of influenza and pneumonia.
Biostatisticians and climate change experts from the CSIRO have modelled the changes in temperature related deaths in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Climate scientists have developed different models to try to predict the temperature increases and variations across these major cities.
No matter what model is run, Brisbane stands out as the city most affected by climate change. The predictions suggest that the rate of temperature-related deaths will increase by 93.5% over the next 75 years.
Sydney remains relatively static, with a slight increase in peak summer deaths. Melbourne fares the best, with global warming biting into the mid-winter chills.
By 2090 the calculations suggest there will be 6.6% fewer temperature related deaths in Melbourne. Global warming will have different impacts on the health of the residents in different cities. Brisbane is set to get far hotter while Melbourne will experience both more extreme summer days but fewer cold winter chills.
On average this is likely to mean that there will be fewer deaths due to factors that are temperature dependent.
The increases in summer sun brought about by global warming have the potential to cause ill health. For the very young and the old remaining in cool shaded places, with plenty of hydration can promote better health as temperatures continue to increase.
Last Reviewed: 03/10/2019
Your Doctor. Dr Michael Jones, Medical Editor.
Guo Y et al. Projecting future temperature-related mortality in three largest Australian cities. Environmental Pollution 2016;208:66-73.