Climate Change: Science and Solutions for Australia
Chapter 6: Adapting to heatwaves and coastal flooding
By Dr Xiaoming Wang and Dr Ryan RJ McAllister
With an expected increase in the incidence of heatwaves and heat-related deaths, and with increasing exposure of Australian property and infrastructure to coastal flooding in various ways along the Australian coastline, adaptation represents a case for thinking nationally or regionally, but analysing and acting locally.
Early precautionary action may involve significant benefits in lives saved and property protected, fewer costs and sacrifices, and some new opportunities.
Adaptation options to heatwaves may include developing early warning systems to reach all citizens, preparation of the health system and hospital emergency departments, encouragement of behavioural changes to reduce exposure to heat stress, and better designed homes.
Australia’s built environment suffers from heatwaves on very hot days. Adaptation options include applying ‘cool cities’ concepts to reducing urban heat islands, increasing the resilience of cities to heat-related failures through upgraded engineering design standards, the use of less heat-sensitive materials in key infrastructure, better maintenance routines, emergency response plans that foster adaptability through collaboration across agencies and scales, and management of peak demand loading on the electricity grid.
Options for adaptation to coastal flooding include retrofitting existing developed areas or building beach defences, changing building codes, planning and design standards to accommodate extreme and unpredictable conditions, converting current land uses to those less sensitive to flooding, encouraging house insurance rates that send a clear signal about the advisability of living in flood-prone areas, and developing effective early warning systems and evacuation pathways for extreme events.
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