Monday, April 15, 2024

Can Brisbane handle the heat?

Speaking at the lecture, Queensland Walks executive officer Anna Campbell said Brisbane had recently become more tropical than subtropical.

“We’ve had one of the hottest and highest dew point and humid summers to remind us of the challenges we face in the urban landscape, and for our health,” she said.

Sweltering Cities executive director Emma Bacon says the cost of living is an early theme of this year’s summer survey.

Sweltering Cities executive director Emma Bacon says the cost of living is an early theme of this year’s summer survey.Credit: Sweltering Cities

Unsurprisingly, the unshaded and unfinished Victoria Bridge was one of the “hot and hostile” locations Campbell used to illustrate the challenges facing Brisbane residents. In October last year on a 28.5 degree day, a surface temperature of 54.5 degrees was recorded on the bridge.

Another hot spot is the perpetually derided King George Square. On January 22, a 34.9 degree day, the surface temperature of the square – a public meeting place – reached between 70 and 73 degrees Celsius.

“While we support important public health messages, it is my job to remind you that the notion of personal responsibility is really a false dilemma fallacy until we get our urban environments designed for the conditions that we’re walking in,” Campbell said.

“Heat impacts and lack of shade is an equity challenge ahead of us.”

That inequality is not just being felt by those who have to traverse unshaded paths or cower behind badly designed bus shelters.

“We hear from parents, older people, and people with disabilities that there’s a real sense of hostility in the landscape in the summer,” Bacon says. “Just walking down the road can make you feel really tired or dehydrated.”

Sweltering Cities recently launched its second national summer survey to better understand how heatwaves affect different people. The first, in 2022, had more than 2100 respondents and was the largest-ever survey on heat, health and homes in Australia.

“We don’t have the full results [of the second survey] yet, but what I can say is that the cost of living is a huge part of the story this year,” Bacon says. “It’s absolutely not practical for everyone to rely on air-conditioning to cool their homes, firstly because that would be a struggle for the energy grid.

King George Square once featured grass and a water fountain. It now features heat-reflecting concrete.

King George Square once featured grass and a water fountain. It now features heat-reflecting concrete. Credit: Amy Mitchell-Whittington

“But secondly, not everyone can afford to turn on the air-con.”

Brisbane’s heat problem is only worsening, and it’s something we’ve all got to start considering in our homes, and in public places.

“This isn’t going to be the hottest summer of our lives,” Bacon says. “This is going to be relatively cool compared to some of the summers of our future, and the energy grid needs to be able to cope with that.

“It also has to be part of our planning goals in Queensland and around the country.”

Get the inside word on the news, sport, food, people and places Brisbane is talking about. Sign up for our City Talk newsletter here.

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles