Heat Waves and Rising Urban Violence

The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
August 9, 2008

Violence to rise as city gets hotter
Kate Lahey

RISING temperatures are likely to bring increased
levels of violence to Melbourne by 2010, and are
highly likely to by 2030, a report being
considered by the city council finds.

A climate change risk assessment says increased
temperatures are expected to exacerbate the
relationship between hot weather, violence and
anti-social behaviour.

The report also warns of extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

The draft report to council by consultancy firm
Maunsell Aecom, Towards a City of Melbourne
Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, draws on
research from Darwin by Australian surgeons that
recently found a correlation between very hot,
humid weather and hospital admissions for facial
fractures caused by assault.

The report also says Victorian police acknowledge
the need to prepare for increased violence in
hotter conditions.

“Studies and anecdotal reports indicate a
correlation between violence and anti-social
behaviour and high temperatures. Rising
temperatures are expected to exacerbate this
effect,” it says.

“Victorian police have commented that they are
needing to consider the operational implications
of hotter conditions, including increased
violence and security concerns.”

But a police spokesman said considering the
effect of climate change was not a priority for
the force.

“Drug, alcohol and youth related violence are our
main concerns at this time, they form the focus
of our attention in reducing violence,” he said.

“The possible effect of global warming is well
down the list of priorities at this time.”

The report says violence is a critical risk in an
extreme heatwave, particularly when alcohol is
involved. It suggests changes to infrastructure
for better heat resilience and more anti-violence
outreach programs to mitigate the risk.

The draft report also warns that Melbourne’s CBD
is at risk of becoming a “heat island” with
temperatures in the concrete jungle potentially
up to seven degrees higher than less urbanised

It suggests more rooftop gardens, lighter colours
for buildings, roofs and roads and a more
extensive network of stormwater-fed urban

Drought and sea level rise will create risks, but
the two most significant weather events for
Melbourne likely to be exacerbated by climate
change are extreme heatwaves and intense rainfall.

The council’s environment committee chairman
Fraser Brindley said the whole report was
“alarming” and the council needed to respond

“It’s the canary in the coalmine,” he said.

The report is due to be considered by council’s
environment committee next month.

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