Heatwave danger warning

Daniel EmersonThe West Australian
Heavy price: A cherry crop in Mt Barker ruined by extreme heat.
Camera IconHeavy price: A cherry crop in Mt Barker ruined by extreme heat. Credit: Supplied

Extreme temperatures driven by climate change are projected to increasingly cause death, disease and damage to WA crops and livestock, according to a Government report canvassing heatwave contingency plans for the first time.

The State Government yesterday released its second annual emergency preparedness report, which listed bushfires as WA's "pre-eminent" threat followed by storms, with a "credible worst-case scenario" of an ex-tropical cyclone hitting the South West.

The report revealed heatwave had been added to the State's 34 existing emergency management plans known as Westplans since last year, underpinned by CSIRO and Weather Bureau warnings of climate change.

"Health impacts associated with extreme heat events, including heat-related deaths and infectious diseases, are projected to increase," the report warned.

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"Australian average temperatures have increased by 0.9 per cent since 1950. Extreme heat events are likely to become increasingly common in WA as a result of climate change.

"With a growing and ageing population, heat stress effects and associated treatment (mitigation) strategies need to be considered."

The report comes from the State Emergency Management Committee, which includes WA's Police and Fire commissioners and senior bureaucrats from departments including Health, Child Protection, and Premier and Cabinet.

Though noting the State was better prepared for bushfires after recent reforms, "it still faces an increased bushfire threat this season" because of unmet prescribed burning targets and ageing fuel loads.

Only 23,468ha of the target of 200,000ha in the South West was achieved during 2012-13 because of persistent rainfall.

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