Increasingly high temperatures caused by global warming are becoming a major problem in New Zealand. The government is now looking to introduce plans like those in Australia to try and combat the consequences of climate change.
Hotter summers, bigger problems
The warm weather in New Zealand has been breaking records this summer. In January, temperatures reached 37°C (98.6°F), which is the highest temperature recorded in the country for 7 years.
Temperatures have been considerably warmer than usual as New Zealand’s surrounding waters have been experiencing a ‘marine heatwave’ (MHW). This increase in sea surface temperature, in turn, heats the land.
The current MHW is thought to have been influenced heavily by climate change. As the planet continues to warm, MHWs are likely to become more frequent in future years.
Climate change is also likely to increase the risk of wildfires and droughts, as well as the spread of infectious diseases across the country.
Heat and health
Heat is a big challenge for those that are already suffering health problems. It particularly affects people with disabilities, chronic diseases and the elderly.
Health problems such as hyperthermia, heat rash and heat stroke are all very common during hot weather and for those most vulnerable, it can sometimes be fatal. The death toll that accompanies a heat wave is usually a lot higher than extreme weather such as floods or storms.
What’s the plan?
The Associate Minister of Health, Julie Anne Genter, released a statement saying that, “the Ministry of Health is developing a nationwide Heat Health Plan to help District Health Boards and community service providers prepare for the health impacts of hotter summers.”
She said in another statement that the Heat Health Plan being unveiled in New Zealand is likely to be ‘broadly’ similar to health plans already in place in Australia. These include public education strategies, how to care for vulnerable people and how health organisations will coordinate during emergencies.
With any luck, New Zealand will be ready when the heat really hits!