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Homesustainability podcastsHow an overheated planet affects the lives of a farmer, a firefighter...

How an overheated planet affects the lives of a farmer, a firefighter and a military general

SINGAPORE: What do a farmer, a firefighter and a soldier have in common? Nothing at first glance.

But all three must face a force of nature they cannot control: Extreme heat.

The issue of rising global temperatures has been on top of the climate agenda and in addressing world leaders during an emotive speech on Sep 20, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “humanity has opened the gates of hell”.

Heatwaves and wildfires seen around the world have been marked as fresh evidence of the dangers of an overheated planet. 

For Mr Chris Hardman, these dangers are personal. The chief fire officer at Forest Fire Management Victoria lost three of his firefighters to Australia’s catastrophic black summer fires. 

Four years on, smoke is back in the air with El Nino’s return. 

Climate change has already lengthened Australia’s fire season. But El Nino’s arrival is breeding the perfect firestorm of hot and dry weather conditions that raises the risk of wildfires. To protect critical infrastructure, Mr Hardman’s team are turning to advanced modelling tools to map out how fires can move across a landscape. 

“As soon as there’s a lightning ignition, there will be an immediate prediction through a computer-based model that will say this fire is going to do this in the next 24 hours,” said the chief fire officer. 

This information could shape the fire department’s strategy and make their response nimbler.

“It is easier to put a small fire out than a big fire,” said Mr Hardman who believes that investing in preventative measures could reduce the scale of wildfires like those seen in Canada and Maui earlier this year. 

“Living with fire is part of our future,” Mr Hardman warned. 

“People need to educate and inform themselves. The more people know, the better off they’ll be.”  

WHY CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE NEW ENEMY FOR MILITARIES

Heat exhaustion, dehydration and even heat stroke can quickly set in once temperatures reach over 50 degrees Celsius. A reality familiar to Lt Gen Nguee, the retired three-star general, when he was sent to Iraq for a peacekeeping mission.   

With smaller harvests, scorching temperatures could lead to rising food prices in a phenomenon known as “heatflation”. By 2060, extreme heat could drive food prices up 0.6 per cent to 3.2 per cent, according to a 2023 study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.  Determined to find a solution, Ms Sultan has been experimenting with new ways of growing her crops, from simple fixes such as mulching to tapping on technologies like micro-irrigation to reduce her water consumption. 

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