Home Health Extreme heat, disease and rising seas: how climate change threatens Auckland

Extreme heat, disease and rising seas: how climate change threatens Auckland

Auckland residents could suffer an equivalent of three months of hot days in less than a century – with residents in the southern and western suburbs who could be hit harder.

An extraordinary assessment, first of its kind, released during a three-day symposium in the city this week, exposed Auckland's possible future under climate change.

He warns against the hottest days, the wildest storms, the highest seas, ecological devastation and a wave of pests and diseases.

A report examined the city's vulnerability to extreme temperatures, noting that if the planet had continued to heat up on its current trajectory, by 2040 there could be at least 10 to 15 particularly hot days in Auckland each year.

This rose from 60 to 70 by 2090 and from 70 to 80 by 2110.

The heat would be felt even more intensely in the north and south of the region: these areas could occur up to 25 of these days by 2040 and more than 90 by 2110.

Hot days were those in which the temperature exceeded 25 ° C and that Auckland had tasted during the heatwave of the week of January.

A vulnerability index developed by Auckland Council scientists has combined a number of socio-economic, health and environmental factors.

Heat-related deaths and health risks were more common among women, the elderly and very young; ethnic minorities and people with language barriers; those who rented or came from low-income families; and those who were socially isolated and had chronic mental health conditions.

Tens of thousands of Auckland have already suffered from heat-sensitive diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and suffering.

This graph shows which parts of the city are most vulnerable to extreme heat, using an index that measures a series of socio-economic, demographic and climate indicators through the meshblocks of census data. Source / Auckland Council
This graph shows which parts of the city are most vulnerable to extreme heat, using an index that measures a series of socio-economic, demographic and climate indicators through the meshblocks of census data. Source / Auckland Council

This would only worsen due to climate change – and nowhere compared to the southern and western suburbs.

The reasons why it went from deprivation and a high number of children and the elderly, to the lack of access to transport and green spaces.

Resources like community centers, along with green "cold spaces", could help, the experts said.

Another report found that many of those same groups – the Māori and Pacific peoples, the elderly, children and low-income homes – are most at risk due to the greater threat of air pollution.

The biggest problem spots were the densely populated urban road canyons, surrounded by tall buildings and along busy roads, and smog was not the only danger.

This graph shows parts of Auckland where climate change will have the greatest impact, based on census area units and a mix of indicators that measure vulnerability. Source / Auckland Council
This graph shows parts of Auckland where climate change will have the greatest impact, based on census area units and a mix of indicators that measure vulnerability. Source / Auckland Council

Higher temperatures have led to a longer growing season for plants, increasing pollen in the atmosphere.

Once mixed with air pollutants, the allergenic properties can be improved – if inhaled, it could trigger asthma attacks and other symptoms of acute respiratory disease.

FLOODING, HIGH SEAS

The scientists also examined the potential impacts of the floods, which were already the greatest natural hazard in the city, potentially affecting nearly a quarter of its buildings.

But this century's sea level rise, along with more intense storms, would bring even more headaches for hazard planners.

A greater number of floods has led to a greater risk of spreading diseases through water or the emergence of outbreaks of contamination deriving from overflowing sewers.

This graph shows sea level rise projections located on different time scales. Source / Auckland Council
This graph shows sea level rise projections located on different time scales. Source / Auckland Council

One of the reports has estimated that up to 7.5 percent of the council's green space has been exposed to rising sea levels, including sports fields, parks and cemeteries.

Another exposes the danger to the unique natural ecosystems of the region: at worst
scenarios, some could be completely wiped out.

Almost half of the 48 types of Auckland's native ecosystems have been identified as having at least one risk factor, making them more sensitive.

Auckland is already vulnerable to storms and floods. Photo / File
Auckland is already vulnerable to storm surges and floods. Photo / File

While plant species such as taraire and rimu were subject to drought stress, the prospects for seabird populations in the region – already in delicate conditions – were just as sad.

Most of Auckland's 24 species of seabirds have been considered at risk or threatened with extinction – and these species have faced higher seas and storms by destroying their habitats and nesting colonies.

But even subtle changes to Auckland's subtropical climate could mean trouble for bats, reptiles and amphibians, invertebrates, birds, plants and a multitude of aquatic and marine species.

The endangered dotterel is among the species of birds of Auckland most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Photo / Gavin Klee
The endangered dotterel is among the species of birds of Auckland most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Photo / Gavin Klee

The acidification of the oceans has also threatened the survival of molluscs, hedgehogs, sea snails and plankton – all crucial elements of the marine ecosystems of the region.

In contrast to the danger to our beloved native species was the possible entry of unwanted ones: a more tropical climate would have provided the conditions for new mosquitoes and other disease-carrying parasites.

Although there has never been a confirmed case of a man who acquired a mosquito-borne disease in New Zealand, there are species here already capable of spreading diseases such as the feared West Nile virus.

Among the other potential disturbing horizons are the Murray Valley encephalitis, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever.

& # 39; WE CANNOT EXPECT & # 39;

Auckland, which contributed around 20% of New Zealand's carbon dioxide emissions, was the first region in the country to study the risks of climate change at the local level.

Penny Hulse, chairman of the environmental and community committee of the Auckland municipality, said the results should come as no surprise.

"We are all experiencing the impacts of our changing climate, including more frequent and more severe weather events," he said Herald.

"While problems like rising sea levels, the increased risk of flooding and worsening health impacts on our most vulnerable are daunting, we cannot ignore the evidence in these new reports.

"They highlight the impacts on our community if we do nothing, they show that we cannot wait".

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the climate is changing, and so is the city.

"It helps to meet the ambitious goals of the Paris agreement to limit climate change, called for new approaches to transport, development, infrastructure and agriculture," he said.

"Making decisive actions will not always be easy – it will require several difficult conversations and difficult decisions," says Auckland sustainability manager John Mauro. Photo / File

"Auckland is making progress, but along with communities around the world there is much more we need to do to achieve the goals set in Paris."

The sustainability director of the city council, John Mauro, said that the Auckland climate action plan was developed in line with the ambitious United Nations aspiration to limit the rise in temperature to 1, 5 ° C.

Mauro said that the largest areas in which Auckland could make the difference was to offer transportation choices, making urban centers more viable and livable and growing a healthy urban forest.

"A more compact Auckland with a greater dependence on electric motor transport will have a fundamental role in reducing carbon emissions from transport and traffic, which make up 40 percent of our city's emissions," Mauro said.

"This will also reduce the high levels of carbon black pollution in the city center."

The Auckland Council was the first council in the country to issue green bonds, and the $ 200 million raised so far would help finance Auckland's electric trains, along with a fleet of zero-emission buses scheduled for 2025.

Work continues for the Auckland City Rail Link. Photo / File
Work continues for the Auckland City Rail Link. Photo / File

Mauro also highlighted the urban rail link, currently under construction; A $ 900 million cycling infrastructure, including the SkyPath; and the new pilot plant at the Ports of Auckland hydrogen plant, which could provide clean energy for buses and ferries.

"We all need to work together, we all benefit when our society and people become more resilient, fairer, more prosperous and healthier," Mauro said.

"Making decisive actions will not always be easy – it will require some difficult conversations and difficult decisions."

From the numbers

90

The northern and southern parts of Auckland may have 90 more hot days, where it is warmer than 25 ° C, by 2110.

3.75C

Furthermore, by 2110 it is expected that the annual maximum (daytime) temperatures will increase between 1.5 ° C and 3.75 ° C for most of the Auckland region and it is expected that annual minimum (night) temperatures will increase between 1.25 C between 3.5 ° C.

16,000

An estimated 16,000 buildings in Auckland are at risk of flooding in a 100-year-old flood event.

1.5% -2.5%

During this century, about 1.5-2.5% of the land area of ​​Auckland could be exposed to rising sea levels. This includes 0.3% of buildings, 80% of coastal ecosystems and 6% of dairy land.

22

22 of the 48 types of Auckland's native ecosystems have been identified as having at least one risk factor that makes them more susceptible to climate change.

.

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