Australian heatwaves become a public health crisis

Brush fire in Tasmania. Photo: Stringer/Reuters

While a record-breaking cold snap is headed for parts of the Midwest, summer in Australia has brought dangerous heatwaves that are threatening people and wildlife. As NPR reported, Australia’s State Emergency Service declared the heat wave a threat to public safety, as an increasing number of Australians have called ambulances and gone to hospitals in Adelaide for heat-associated illnesses. The Australian Energy Market Operator cut power to 200,000 people in the southern state of Victoria after demand increased for air-conditioning. The Australian Open even suspended tennis championship matches in Melbourne, as the Twitter feed of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology became a stream of all-time-high temperature reports and fire advisories.

A second heatwave has hit Southern Australia as well as 50 fires that have started across Tasmania and a bushfire that’s been burning in East Gippsland. Not only have people been struggling with intense heat and fires but there have been numerous instances of reported wildlife casualties. Roughly 90 feral horses died of thirst as their water source dried up as well as 36 thirsty camels. People have also been coming to the aid of thirsty koalas who are desperate for water amidst the dry and hot conditions.  During the previous heatwave which lasted from November 26 to 27 2018, temperatures exceeded 42ºC (108ºF) in northern Australia. Motherboard explained that scientists estimate this spike killed a staggering 23,000 spectacled flying foxes—about a third of the nation’s entire population of this large bat species. What’s more is that extreme heat from Australia’s landmass has caused a heatwave in New Zealand as well.

Why This Matters: Australia is among the countries that are getting hotter faster as a result of climate change. In addition, Australia has fallen back on its commitment to address climate change. As Elizabeth Hanna, a researcher with Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, told NPR  that “The federal government we have at the moment is being led by a few climate [change] deniers.” She explained that Prime Minister Scott Morrison infuriated Australians when he said “that we should pray for rain.” Australia was one of the first countries in the world to have a carbon tax, “but when we had a change of government, they reversed that and of course our emissions started increasing,” Hanna added.

Up Next

Trump Blasts Paris Agreement at Virtual G20 Summit

Trump Blasts Paris Agreement at Virtual G20 Summit

by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer While attending this year’s virtual G20 summit on Sunday, President Trump blasted the Paris Climate Agreement, which President-elect Joe Biden has promised to rejoin on his first day as president. Trump claimed that the international agreement, which involves the interests of almost 200 sovereign nations all with their own […]

Continue Reading 525 words
Biden Looks to Paris as Trump Tantrum Continues

Biden Looks to Paris as Trump Tantrum Continues

by Miro Korenha, co-founder and publisher of Our Daily Planet After the United States formally withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Joe Biden transition team has repeatedly signaled that rejoining the international agreement will be a Day 1 priority. Biden’s all-of-government approach to climate action will help orient the power of the federal government […]

Continue Reading 230 words
Combating Climate Change on Day 1 By Enlisting the Defense Department

Combating Climate Change on Day 1 By Enlisting the Defense Department


One of the promises made by President-Elect Joe Biden during the campaign was that his administration would use the full powers of government to fight climate change.  To get more bang for his buck (sorry the puns just keeping on rolling along), he need only look to the Department of Defense, with an annual budget […]

Continue Reading 262 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.