Picture a not-too-distant future where your health insurer pegs your premium to how well your neighbourhood has prepared itself for the impacts of climate change, in particular increased heat events.
Don’t think it will happen? Well, we’ve already seen the introduction of telematics into the motoring industry; at present you are able to opt to have a driver-monitoring device installed in your car, and your insurer can then decide what premium to charge you based on the data it collects about how you drive… wouldn’t bother me personally as long as I don’t get penalised for my language.
We now have data linking increased death rates during heat events to specific urban environmental conditions. Whilst there are other indicators such as isolation, age, population density and so forth, the stand-out neighbourhood design factors are those around ‘heat island’.
Heat island is a term used to describe how urban environments get hotter than their natural surrounds due to high levels of hard surfaces such as concrete and bitumen, and lower amounts of shaded and landscaped areas.
A 2013 study my Monash University has mapped the statistical rises in heat-related death rates during heat events for Australia’s main cities, suburb by suburb. This is pretty gruesome stuff but the evidence all points to urban heat island being a major part of the problem. The report is definitely worth a read, particularly to understand the various factors that all combine to make your suburb potentially vulnerable to heat events.
So now we have this data, meaning your health insurer does too, and they can gain an understanding of your suburb’s ‘Vulnerability Index’… just sayin’…
By focussing our efforts on refurbishing our existing neighbourhoods and making them more resilient (and cooler : ) we stand a good chance of heading off this sad story. Stay tuned for some awesome things we can do to tackle this… all multiple-benefit value-adds for our communities.