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Extreme Heat Costs Sydney's Economy AUD 432 Million, Losses Double by 2050, Dark Roofs in Western Sydney Elevate Temperatures by 15°C

Extreme Heat Costs Sydney's Economy AUD 432 Million, Losses Double by 2050, Dark Roofs in Western Sydney Elevate Temperatures by 15°C

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council released "Hot Cities, Chilled Economies: Impacts of Extreme Heat on Global Cities," a new report detailing the social and economic effects of climate-driven extreme heat through the prism of 12 cities, spanning six continents, covering an urban population of more than 123 million.

The study—undertaken in partnership with Vivid Economics—revealed that heat exposure within Sydney already causes labor productivity losses that could amount to AUD 432 million in lost output in a typical year—in contrast, flooding costs all of New South Wales around AUD 250 million every year. Without further adaptation, worsening conditions for exposed workers may double heat and humidity-related labor productivity losses to more than AUD 974 million by 2050.

"Climate-driven heat is changing the way we live and work, yet current awareness of this silent and invisible threat is dangerously insufficient. Heat's disproportionate impact on cities compelled us to quantify and explore the economic and social ramifications of our burning planet," said Kathy Baughman McLeod, SVP and Director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council. "Our hope is that these findings will raise awareness and spur further adaptation interventions, policies, and investment that cool cities and protect people."

Other key findings are as follows:
  • The worst heat waves have seen temperatures exceed 45°C, and high heat can coincide with other hazards such as bushfire and drought. The effects of unabated climate change could cause hot days to become 60% or more frequent by 2050.
  • Heat is a particular concern in Western Sydney, where the local microclimate and urban design features such as dark roofs combine to cause temperatures up to 15°C more than rural surroundings. These hotspots in Western Sydney are likely to spread by 2050.
  • The high heat vulnerability of the elderly will also increase already notable mental and physical burdens on the 15,000 largely low-paid residents who are employed as care-givers–as well as the 1-in-9 residents who have informal care duties.

Extending existing efforts to improve resilience to heat and considering early warning systems based on the health impact of forecasted weather conditions could help protect more people and reduce heat-related mortality. Sydney is working to protect its population from heat through a combination of the following actions:

  • Policy/planning: A ban on dark roofs was proposed and could have helped mitigate some of the extreme heat, although the plan was recently abandoned. Supportive guidelines provided by organizations such as the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) can promote heat-reducing and heat-resilient urban planning.
  • Communications/outreach: The Heat Smart Resilience Framework from WSROC provides support and ideas for people to adopt their own ways of coping with and being safe in extreme heat, and heat wave forecasting from the national Bureau of Meteorology can provide the basis for launching public safety campaigns to disseminate this information.
  • Investment in the built environment and nature-based solutions: The Resilient Sydney 2018 strategy outlines ongoing and intensifying efforts to reduce heat in the city, including "cool roofs, permeable or porous roads, driveways and footpaths, cool building and shading designs, and irrigation and tree canopy cover." Greening Sydney 2030 expands on existing efforts and proposes investing in green roofs and walls as well as tree cover.

For this report, only a subset of the ways in which extreme heat can impact a city's economy and society were examined and appraises impacts in 'normal' vs. unusually warm years, meaning it provides a conservative view of the social and economic costs of heat. It does not look at impacts or costs to infrastructure, health care systems, reduced learning and education, or the loss resulting from business interruption.

The full repot and methodology can be found here.

The Adrienne-Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center builds individual and community resilience in the face of climate impacts. We pledge to reach one billion people around the world with resilience solutions to climate change by 2030.

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