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Australia’s future extreme temperatures and the role of planners

In recent years, Australia has experienced unprecedented heat, including heatwaves and record-breaking hot days, months, seasons and years. Australia has a naturally variable climate, but recent studies show that our recent extremes are already being influenced by climate change. Even if the Paris agreement to limit the global temperature rise to below 2C is met, summer heatwaves in major Australian cities are likely to reach highs of 50C by mid-century.

Grey infrastructure, roads, and buildings will absorb all that heat, get much hotter, and take two to three times as long to cool down. Public transport will literally melt on really hot days. How will people go to work, take their children to school? Emergency departments will be overwhelmed from increased demand from elderly people and others vulnerable to heatstroke. Energy requirements will skyrocket during peak temperatures.

What role can planners play to fight climate change?

  • We need a plan to cut emissions!
  • We must dramatically improve our built environment to cope!

We need to begin designing cities that take advantage of wind, green spaces, and shade whilst still being cost-effective. We need to curtail driving and encourage 0-emissions transport such as walking and cycling. We need to upgrade housing standards and retrofit older homes to make them more energy efficient and cooler.


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2 thoughts on “Australia’s future extreme temperatures and the role of planners

  1. Some important and realistic conclusions about the state of how urban design influences climate and the future ramifications of that.

    Solutions: there are many. Yet one that has proven ecological benefits is Cohousing and Ecovillages (see references below).

    Shared resources such as cars, gardens, outdoor equipment and smaller private homes with larger shared communal spaces means that these housing forms significantly reduce the ecological footprint. Additionally when people consciously share the care of space together they collectively find ways to reduce waste.

    Christie Walk (, a Co-housing eco development in Adelaide CBD was awarded by the City Council for the efforts in achieving 75% less household waste than their neighboring developments (interview with resident, 2016), they share solar PV electricity generation overall, have communal fruit trees and share 11 car spaces between 27 homes. This is one of the many co-housing developements throughout cities from around the world that can be found on Co-housing Assocation Websites (,

    The article above raises the comment ‘We need a plan to cut emissions’. Communal living of the sort mentioned provides a workable, proven model. As a planner I call to others to discuss this model and its implementation to bring solutions to the table. If more information is required I am open to provide a presentation on Communal living tailored to the planning field and solution focused.

    If you are interested please make contact. Jason Hilder

    1. Ali, H. M., Dom, M. M., & Sahrum, M. S. (2012). Self-Sufficient Community through the Concepts of Collective Living and Universal Housing. Aice-Bs 2012 Cairo (Asia Pacific International Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies), 68, 615-627. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.12.253

    2. Chatterton, P. (2013). Towards an Agenda for Post-carbon Cities: Lessons from Lilac, the UK’s First Ecological, Affordable Cohousing Community. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(5), 1654-1674. doi:10.1111/1468-2427.12009

    3. Daly, M. (2016). Practicing sustainability: Lessons from a sustainable cohousing community. Paper presented at the State of Australian Cities Conference 2016.

    4. Dawson, J. (2006). Ecovillages: New Frontiers for Sustainability, Schumacher Briefing: Chelsea Green Publishing.

    5. Ergas, C. (2010). A Model of Sustainable Living: Collective Identity in an Urban Ecovillage. Organization & Environment, 23(1), 32-54. doi:10.1177/1086026609360324

    6. Torres-Antonini, M., Hasell, M. J., & Scanzoni, J. (2003). Cohousing as a basis for social connectedness and ecological sustainability. In G. Moser, E. Pol, Y. Bernard, M.

    7. Bonnes, J. A. Corraliza, & M. V. Giuliani (Eds.), People, Places and Sustainability (pp. 123-130). Toronto: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers.

    8. Zhang, R., & Lv, Y. H. (2011). A New Living Concept Based on Low-impact Strategy – The Sustainability of Cohousing Community. In X. K. Wu & H. Xie (Eds.), Green Building Technologies and Materials (Vol. 224, pp. 220-223). Stafa-Zurich: Trans Tech Publications Ltd.

  2. Unfortunatley, there is no political support for climate change action.

    Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has suggested climate change is “probably doing good” in a speech in London: “There’s the evidence that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide – which is a plant food after all – are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields. In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heatwaves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it’s accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial.”

    Abbott told the group the ostracisation of those who did not accept climate science was “the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages”. He also reprised his 2009 assertion that the “so-called settled science of climate change” was “absolute crap”.

    Measures to deal with climate change, which Abbott said would damage the economy, were likened to “primitive people once killing goats to appease the volcano gods”.

    Read the full story on The Guardian.

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