Heat, health, and humidity in Australia's monsoon tropics: a critical review of the problematization of 'heat' in a changing climate

Oppermann, Elspeth, Brearly, Matt, Law, Lisa, Smith, James A., Clough, Alan, and Zander, Kerstin (2017) Heat, health, and humidity in Australia's monsoon tropics: a critical review of the problematization of 'heat' in a changing climate. WIREs Climate Change, 8 (4).

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Abstract

Exposure to heat has killed more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined. As the climate warms, temperatures are projected to rise substantially, increasing the impact of heat stress and heat illness nation-wide. The relation between heat and health is profoundly complex, however, and is understood differently across multiple sectors. This paper thus provides a critical review of how heat is currently measured and managed in Australia, highlighting how humidity, exposure, and exertion are key elements that are not consistently incorporated into 'problematizations' of heat. The presence or absence of these elements produces different spatial and temporal geographies of danger, as well as different governance practices. In particular, the invisibility of humidity as having a significant impact on heat and health shapes whether Australia's tropical monsoon zone is visible as a region at risk or not, and whether prolonged periods of seasonal heat are treated as dangerous. Similarly, different populations and practices become visible depending on whether the human body (its exposure, exertion, cooling, and hydration) is included in accounts of what constitutes 'heat.' As a result, the outdoor, manual workforce is visible as a population at risk in some accounts but not others. A brief review of key policy areas including housing, public health and work health and safety is presented to demonstrate how specific problematizations of heat are critical to the identification of, and response to, current and future climatic conditions. This has implications for how populations, places, and practices are constituted in the region.

Item ID: 49103
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: heat stress, humidity, housing, governance
Additional Information:

© 2017 The Authors. WIREs Climate Change published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

ISSN: 1757-7799
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2017 21:58
FoR Codes: 12 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 1205 Urban and Regional Planning > 120508 Urban Design @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160499 Human Geography not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 50%
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