March 25, 2009

Study Warns Of Health Hazards In Sydney By 2060

A scientist warned attendees of a major climate change conference on Wednesday that rising summer temperatures due to global warming, drier weather and smog from transport and bushfires will make Sydney, Australia a health hazard by 2060, Reuters reported.

Martin Cope of the state-funded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) said the elderly would be most at risk from heat stress, while others with asthma or heart conditions would be at risk as well.

Cope predicted triple the numbers of hospital admissions due to respiratory conditions by that time.

He acknowledged that the picture might not be so grim if "Sydneysiders" embraced low-carbon lifestyles and industry.

"There will be more warmer days, more warmer nights and an older population. It's certainly something we want to plan ahead for," he added.

The research team used computer models to generate urban weather forecasts for Sydney to test the effects of temperature increases of 1 to 4 degrees over the current annual maximum.

The study, carried out at the CSIRO's Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research, showed that higher temperatures caused increased heat stress in the elderly but also helped intensify air pollution.

"From the modeling, we were looking at a 20 percent increase in the number of days above 86 degrees Fahrenheit," he said.

He warned there could be a 100 percent increase of the small number of extreme temperature days.

By 2060, the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to double, increasing the numbers at risk from heat and rising pollution in Sydney, Cope said.

He said that could equal out to roughly a doubling of heat-stress related deaths. "If you then factor in a change in the demographic, you could be talking about a doubling again," he added.

Researchers predict the air in Sydney would likely become more toxic during summer because of higher temperatures and the interaction between sunlight and the chemicals released by burning fossil fuels.

Cope said that as things warm up, more gases are released from liquids because many of the emissions are temperature dependent.

He also said that carbon monoxide from tailpipes and ozone created in the smog that blankets the city would only make conditions worse.

Sydney would likely be drier with potentially more drought, more dust storms and more high-fire risk weather that would add more materials to the smog mix by 2060.

However, the computer models also showed how to trim the worst of the impacts by improving household insulation and reducing the city's heat-island effect.

It suggested that switching to electric or hybrid cars would also help.

"That's really the key. The steps that we will take to reduce carbon emissions will also be beneficial to reducing air pollution."


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