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Studies Draw Direct Line from Climate Change to Extreme Heat and Drought

Posted by karen-smith-murphy on March 5, 2015

A new report from the Climate Council of Australia confirms what many have long suspected – that human-caused climate change makes heat waves more certain and more extreme. 2013 was the hottest year on record in Australia, and as this report notes, the 2012 / 2013 heat waves would have been “virtually impossible” without the release of human-made greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere.

It also found that climate change tripled the odds that the heat waves would occur as frequently as they did, and doubled the odds that they would be as intense as they were. More than 123 temperature records were broken during that summer, and the author of the report – Will Steffen – said that these temperatures will seem cool by 2090 unless we act now.

Thankfully, Australia is already using reflective technology to help bring temperatures down.  In the City of Melbourne, City administrators know that with the increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves, they need to understand the economic impacts of such events on businesses.  From the City of Melbourne

 “We’re doubling tree canopy cover for our urban forest, upgrading drainage infrastructure, funding more energy efficient buildings, implementing planning processes to minimise climate risk and installing various water-sensitive urban design initiatives.  Heatwaves don’t only impact our city economically, heat related illness also kills more Australian’s each year than any other natural disaster so City of Melbourne has identified this as a priority issue we must prepare better for,” Cr Wood said.

Meanwhile, the City of Sydney is conducting a trial to see if lighter colored pavement will help reduce the urban heat island effect and improve the comfort and health of the people who live there.

People on the west coast of the United States are also feeling the effects of climate change.  A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows that greenhouse gas emissions have increased the likelihood of warm, dry conditions in California, and that by 2030, the warm weather driving the current drought could occur annually.

This problem isn’t just confined to California.  According to The National Integrated Drought Information System (Drought.gov), 32% of contiguous USA is in moderate or worse drought.

Thankfully, cities in the Golden State are already on it. A new law went into effect in the city of Los Angeles last year that requires white roofs on all new construction and major rebuilds of residential buildings. Commercial and residential buildings are now required to employ reflective roof technology to help bring city temperatures down. The cities of Pasadena and Hermosa Beach have enacted similar regulations – you can read more about it here.

The problems brought on by extreme heat and climate change are many. But many city leaders around the world are recognizing the benefits of reflective roofs and pavements, and are using this technology to conserve energy, reduce emissions, and save lives.

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