Our work aligns to 13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
Many of our Western students (77%) live in Western Sydney. Climate change impacts us all and urban heat is emerging as a major liveability issue for Western Sydney’s future. As Western Sydney gets hotter, significant impacts on our health, infrastructure, economy and the environment will be experienced. Our region is particularly susceptible to the impacts of urban heat due to the region’s existing climate, geographic position, large and growing residential population, rapid urban development and greater levels of social disadvantage.
During the Sydney summer of 2018-19, the Sydney CBD and surrounds experienced only six days over 35 degrees Celsius, classified as a “hot day”. In contrast, Penrith experienced 37 hot days; Parramatta experienced 19 hot days; and Bankstown experienced 20 hot days over 35 degrees Celsius for the same period. (Greater Sydney Commission, 2019)
Led by our research agenda, Western Sydney University is working towards climate action in a number of different areas aross the institution:
Research: Parramatta Light Rail Green Track
“Our research confirms that green track will perform important environmental functions that improve the amenity and ecology of the local area. These benefits are particularly interesting for a city like Parramatta, where summer heat and more general heat island effects are of concern for public health and integrity of infrastructure.”, Dr Sebastian Pfautsch. Western Sydney University research has confirmed the viability of green track in western Sydney, in a study commissioned by Transport for NSW for the Parramatta Light Rail project. The NSW Government will deliver Australia’s longest stretch of “green track” as part of the Parramatta Light Rail project as part of local climate mitigation. Parramatta Light Rail will feature up to one kilometre of green track, which involves planting grass or shrubs between and beside light rail tracks instead of asphalt or concrete, across three main areas, namely Cumberland Hospital, Robin Thomas Reserve and Tramway Avenue.
Research: Cool Streets, Hot Rooves
Collaborative research led by Dr Sebastian Pfautsch in Social Science with local councils over summer focused on the assessment of microclimates throughout urban landscapes and in particular how much cooling trees provide. The research found that temperatures in a street in North Parramatta with 10% canopy cover were over 40°C during 12 days last summer, whereas in a street with 30% canopy cover temperatures over 40°C were recorded on only 5 days. These are large differences in local heat between 2 streets that are just 1 kilometre apart. The work also showed that Western Sydney communities have to cope with extreme temperatures much more frequently than previously thought.
Co-Curricular: How Hot is your Campus?
As part of the on-campus workshop for the Sustainability Bootcamp, 45 Western students investigated first-hand how hot our campus (Parramatta South and Kingswood) is and the effects of urban heat. Students took heat readings in various locations around the campuses, before coming up with a poster campaign to share their findings. On a warm Spring day, some spots on campus recorded readings between 50 - 60 degrees Celcius, with 67oC in full sun car park on Parramatta South being the highest student data recorded. Students were also asked to reflect on what actions they could take for a cooler future for Western Sydney. The Urban Heat module build on and features work from Dr Sebastian Pfautsch on urban heat, as well as WSROC’s Turn Down the Heat Strategy.
Co-Curricular: The Solar Car
“One of the essential parts of our mission and one that we hold very close to our hearts is engaging young people with a powerful message of sustainability and problem-solving. It’s so critical to our future that the leaders of tomorrow are well aware of the environmental challenges we face, and are fully invested in solving them.”, The Solar Car team. The Western Sydney University Solar Car team competed in the American Solar Challenge 2018 — a global competition racing for the first time from Nebraska to Oregon, a total of 2,837 km. The team came in first place, beating more experienced and better-resourced teams. This is the first time that a non-American team has won the race, and in doing so Western Sydney University broke a 17-year winning streak by the University of Michigan, USA. The team consists of 22 multidisciplinary volunteer students who design, build, and race their solar car, supervised by Dr Ali Hellany.
Campuses: Resilience Planning for Campuses
A resilience planning process commenced in 2018 to address the predicted impacts of climate change in Western Sydney on our campus infrastructure and communities of practice. A preliminary discussion paper was drafted and circulated to infrastructure managers and researchers involved with the Environmental Sustainability Research Theme Champions. This discussion paper drew upon established modelling for climate change impacts, along with strategies proposed by the Resilient Sydney project, and the Property Council of NSW. A range of valuable research already undertaken by Western researchers includes that on Cooling Commons in Western Sydney and heat islands such as carparks. A process of campus workshops was delivered to map strategies on the CORE model of campus roles and interactions, and compiled into a preliminary Resilience Assessment.
Engagement: Western supports the #Climatestrike
Western students and staff were supported to attend this years global climate strike. This movement was led by student group Climate Caucus and the Western Sydney NTUE branch, with support from the Student Representative Council, the student Environmental Collection, the Chaplaincy and others. Over 300 students and staff signed the petition to support the climate strike, and over 50 Western staff and students attended the strike in Sydney city. “We have the most students of any university in NSW from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Pasifika, refugee, and low SES backgrounds. We are therefore especially aware of the need to care for the country on which Western Sydney was built, to act urgently to protect those nations in the Pacific most immediately at risk of rising sea levels, to open our arms to those that the climate crisis inevitably will displace, and to ensure there is a secure and just transition of the workforce to a sustainable economy.”, Climate Caucus student group
Engagement: Hawkesbury Climate Forum
The Hawkesbury Climate Forum, organised by the Macquarie Electorate Student Climate Activists (MESCA) and was supported by Hawkesbury City Council, aimed to raise broad discussions about climate change with the local community. “From farmers to residents to businesses and environmentalists, from grandparents to their grandchildren, we all have an interest in our climate... This is about Council, MESCA, climate related experts and the community talking together so we can build a resilient and adaptable community, and secure a better climate future", Hawkesbury City Mayor. Speakers included Dr Neil Perry from School of Business who discussed the ‘cost of climate action vs the cost of doing nothing’, as well as local educators, students from the MESCA and the Deputy Mayor, and was moderated by a member of RCE Greater Western Sydney. Earlier in the year Hawkesbury City Council declare a climate emergency that calls for urgent action by all levels of government, pushed by local high school students.