Across Australia, people are bracing themselves for another scorching summer of drought. Last summer was the hottest on record, and the driest in 27 years in central Australia. Temperature records have already been broken. Communities and outstations are running out of water as aquifers run low. In the year to July 2019, Alice Springs had 129 days over 35C, and 55 days over 40C. A heat monitoring study showed that on some unshaded streets the surface temperature was between 61C and 68C. It wasn’t meant to be like this – at least, not yet. The national science agency, the CSIRO, predicted that these temperatures would not arrive until 2030.
Northern Territory’s environment minister, Eva Lawler, said, “If we don’t do anything, the NT will become unliveable."
Jimmy Cocking of the Arid Lands Environment Centre talks openly about climate refugees. “We’re going to end up with a whole bunch of internally displaced people...” he says.
Predictions by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress for the health impacts of heat are dire. In its submission to the NT government’s climate change policy discussion paper, it outlined some of them: “Increased sickness and mortality due to heat stress, increased food insecurity and malnutrition, increased risk from infectious disease, poorer mental health and an increased potential for social conflict.”