Australia urgently needs a dedicated, independently administered fund to meet the escalating costs of natural disasters due to global warming.
Beneficiaries of the National Climate Disaster Fund?
Funding can be distributed amongst the most disaster impacted regions and sectors in Australia. These include:
Natural disasters have large social and economic costs and entrench disadvantage.
The 2019 Queensland floods are estimated to have affected 116,000 people and cost at least $2.3 billion in health, social and community impacts. This included $1.6 billion in, mental health impacts (Deloitte Access Economics (2019) The social and economic cost of the North and Far North Queensland Monsoon Trough: Queensland Reconstruction Authority). The social impacts of 2011 Queensland flood were estimated to be over $7 billion, and the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires $3.9 billion (Deloitte Access Economics (2017) The economic cost of the social impact of natural disasters).
As described in the health section above, heatwaves have serious health impacts including psychological stress, interrupt sleep patterns, and influence patterns of domestic violence. They also reduce the capacity and willingness to exercise which has ramifications, such as increased accident risk, sedentary life style-induced diabetes and cardio vascular disease (Kjellstrom et al. (2009) The Direct Impact of Climate Change on Regional Labor Productivity, Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health 64 (4); World Health Organisation (2017) Preventing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by reducing environmental risk factors). All of these factors increase the need for social services.
Heatwaves also disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities. Proximity to the coast and access to cooling sea breezes greatly reduces the impact of heatwaves. In many Australian cities, cooler coastal suburbs tend to be more affluent, with lower socio-economic groups further from the coast in suburbs that can become heat traps. Many remote and regional communities, particularly in Northern Australia face extreme projected temperature further entrenching disadvantage in these areas.
The NCDF could provide a stable source of funding for providing and maintaining the growing cost of social services required to cope with the impacts of natural disasters.