Everyone will be impacted by climate change. Some population groups in NSW are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on their health. These include:
Socio-economically disadvantaged communities
Socio-economically disadvantaged communities are often more vulnerable to a range of environmental risks, including to climate change, as these communities may have:
- fewer financial, social and educational resources to protect themselves
- poor existing health
- less access to healthcare and essential services
- lower capacity to act on public health advice to manage the impacts.
Remote Aboriginal communities
Remote Aboriginal communities are likely to be better adapted to living in extreme climates and have traditional knowledge, such as land management, which is protective of health impacts. However in some cases, these communities may have:
- poorer pre-existing health
- socio-economic disadvantages that may lower the ability to cope with impacts.
Rural communities may benefit from some level of adaptation to extreme climate events, such as droughts. However, these communities may:
- have less access to healthcare and essential services
- be more dependent on the environment for daily living and employment. A changing climate can affect livelihoods of rural communities, who may have to compete for resources.
Older people may be less able to look after themselves during extreme weather. Older people are often more severely affected from the impacts of heat waves than other groups in the community, as they may:
- drink less water, as they feel less thirsty with age, so are likely to become dehydrated in heat
- have existing health conditions
- be socially isolated
- not gain enough sleep on hot nights to recover.
Children often depend on adults for care and are less able to deal with extreme weather, as they are:
- more affected by air pollution, as they are still growing and have higher breathing rates
- likely to be more exposed to extreme heat from outdoor play
- less likely to follow advice of drinking water, and dehydrate more quickly.
Pregnant women and their unborn babies
Pregnant women and their unborn babies can be at higher risk of birth problems, poorer health and mortality due to impacts of climate change as extreme weather events may:
- increase the risk of the baby being born prematurely and of having low birth weight
- lower access to safe drinking water, nutritious food and hospital and antenatal care, and increase the risk of infectious diseases.
People with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions
People with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions may be less able to respond to extreme weather and take care of themselves, as they may:
- experience problems using medications, as some medications are less durable in warmer temperatures
- have lower access to necessary healthcare services and medical equipment due to damage from extreme weather events.
Industries and their workers
Industries and their workers may be at more risk of extreme weather exposure, for example:
- outdoor workers may experience heatstroke if they do not have enough hydration, a cool shelter and work breaks
- indoor workers may experience heat stress if they work in high temperature environments, without proper ventilation or air-conditioning, especially areas close to heat sources.
Tourists may be at risk of extreme weather due to:
- inexperience with the Australian environment and climate
- less awareness of health protection strategies, such as bushfire safety, or actions to take during extreme heat, storms and floods
- language barriers that make it difficult to understand and use public health advice.