• Dr. April Reside

Socioeconomic Consequences of Climate Change

Getting to the nitty gritty of climate change makes for sobering reading. This semester I’m coordinating and lecturing a course on climate change and environmental management. It’s a bit of a worry that the course so far is a bombardment of bad news. We will get to the adaptation and opportunities part – but so far we’ve been reviewing the science, the evidence of recent warming, and the socioeconomic consequences of climate change.

One of the great things about putting the course together is learning about all the resources that exist for illustrating all manner of concepts. For example, the Hermie the Hermit crab youtube by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority that demonstrates some of the consequences of ocean acidification is a particular fave.

While the environmental aspects are most familiar to me, as most of my research to date has been on the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, and adaptation options for biodiversity, the human side of climate change is compelling and pretty terrifying.

UQ was lucky to have a visit recently from Associate Professor Camilo Mora from University of Hawai‘i, who spoke animatedly on “the feedbacks of climate change on people”. I’ve taken some inspiration from A/Prof Mora’s work for the lectures – but it is not for the faint hearted! Last year, he and colleagues published a paper titled “Twenty-seven ways a heat wave can kill you: Deadly heat in the era of climate change(1)”. It reviewed the various pathways that can lead to death when conditions prevent adequate body heat dissipation – e.g. too hot, too humid, usually both. Seven vital organs can be affected: brain, heart, intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs and pancreas; and there are five physiological mechanisms that can lead to organ failure and death.

And heat waves are already resulting in excess mortality – around the world, but also in Australia, in surprising numbers. Australia’s Climate Council’s “Silent Killer” report states that major heatwaves have caused more deaths since 1890 than bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined.

During the heatwave in south-eastern Australia in the summer period at the start of 2009, emergency call-outs increased by 46%; cases involving heat-related illness went up by 34 times the background rate; in Victoria, cardiac arrests went up three-fold. In all, there were 374 excess deaths recorded, an increase of 62% from previous year.

We’re getting to the adaptation to climate change part of the course soon – adaptation both for biodiversity and for people. I wish there were more good news stories to tell.

(1) Mora, C., Counsell, C.W.W., Bielecki, Coral R., Louis, L.V., 2017. Twenty-seven ways a heat wave can kill you: Deadly heat in the era of climate change. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes 10, e004233.


The article above has been kindly provided by Dr. April Reside, postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the University of Queensland. Be sure to check out Conservation on the Fly for more interesting entries: https://aprilreside.wixsite.com/conservation