"It's all about communication in the end. Person to person"
Mary Farrow - Director, Centre of Resilience, Emerald House, Heat Wave Hypothetical Panelist
Climate models point to increasing likelihood of extremes. Though itʼs been dangerously hot in Melbourne already, unprecedented heat waves may likely lie ahead. This hypothetical style event explored how Melbourneʼs energy, water, transport and systems will respond as community services struggle to meet demand. Speakers discussed the impacts on Melbourneʼs community and infrastructure, what we¹ve learnt, how you can cope and how we can build Melbourneʼs resilience into the future.
Green Cross Australia is grateful for the participation of twelve outstanding panelists who represented Melbourne superbly during this thrilling conversation. We especially offer our thanks to moderator Andrew Wisdom, who led Arup's Melbourne office and its Australasian Cities practice for years. Important insights emerged - we capture some below, and you can watch the hypothetical here.
THE SCENARIO: JANUARY 2025
City of Melbourne faces an unprecedented heat wave event. It is January 2025 and the Bureau of Meteorology has projected 6 consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 40 degrees in Melbourne. The warning comes on the back of 4 stay-or-go warnings to bushfire at risk communities on the peri-urban outskirts of Melbourne. The Premier calls on residents and businesses to activate their personal heat wave plans.
More than ever, the well being of Melbourne rests in the hands of business and community members.
PEOPLE AND INFRASTRUCTURE FACTORS
By 2025 we will have double the number of people aged 75 and over - and at this age heat waves are most deadly. In previous heat waves up to 30% of people over 75 had no contact at all with another person - not a single telephone call or knock on the door through an entire heat wave event.
As average temperatures rise, people living in peri-urban Melbourne will be evacuated more frequently during bushfire risk days, especially when power companies shut supply to mitigate acute bushfire risks.
Whether people choose to leave early remains an open question, and if they do, a large population will increasingly come into the City of Melbourne's cool public places and riverbanks seeking safety. With homelessness a persistent and growing problem there will be larger numbers of people seeking refuge in 'the commons' when heat waves occur. Residents in areas where power loads are shed need focused support to seek refuge, as studies indicate a 50% increase in the number of residents who will die in areas where loads are shed to prevent widespread energy supply failure.
COLLABORATIVE WAYS TO DELIVER HEALTH OUTCOMES
Hospitals are expensive refuges: people at risk can be quickly attended, but if they are sent home or back onto the streets, risks return. Retirement villages can be safe or clusters at great risk, depending on back up power supply and evacuation planning.
BENEFITS OF WORKING WITH NATURE
By 2025 Melbourne's power supply will be different, with economically attractive battery storage systems complementing today's energy grid.
Combined with solar and wind systems at the local level, more safe and cool places will emerge with a more flexible power grid. Working with the sun and wind, by taking advantage of a night breeze and solar energy - can enhance the community's well being.
Some parts of the city get hotter than others - thermal imagery reveals it can be half as hot under an established tree compared to in dark asphalt.
A NEW CHAPTER IN THE CONVERSATION OPENS
This conversation builds on a tradition of reaching out across boundaries to address Melbourne's resilience, and Green Cross Australia is proud to be a part of it.
In late 2013 Melbourne was one of 33 cities selected from hundreds of applicants around the world to become a recipient of Rockefeller Foundation's prestigious '100 Resilient Cities' centennial challenge. We look forward to seeing how Melbourne's new Resilience Strategy emerges, and how leadership through a Chief Resilience Officer takes this converstion to new levels right across the community.