Survey Reveals: Bushfires Cost 1.8 million Work Days, Leave 5 Million Sick from Smoke

23 January 2020

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AUSTRALIA – New national survey research from The Australia Institute reveals most Australians have been personally impacted by the bushfires and smoke, including millions missing work or suffering health impacts.

Additionally, the research shows concern about the impacts of climate change are especially high among those directly affected by the fires, as is the wish for the Government to do more to reduce carbon emissions.

Key points

–          57% of respondents reported some kind of direct impact from the bushfires and smoke.

–          26% of survey respondents experienced negative health impacts from the fires’ smoke, representing 5.1 million Australian adults.

  • Health impacts were more widely reported in NSW (35%) and Victoria (29%).

–          17% of full time workers and 8% of part time workers, representing 1.8 million Australians, reported they had missed work due to the fires.

  • This alone is estimated to have costed more than $1.3 billion in lost economic production, assuming only one lost day per worker.

–          Direct experience of impacts was associated with stronger concern about climate change.

“Australia is in the grip of a national climate disaster. The social, economic and medical impacts are vast and only just starting to become clear,” said Tom Swann, senior researcher at the Australia Institute.

“Our research shows that it’s likely more than 5 million Australian adults, along with many children, have suffered negative health impacts as a result of the fires and at least 1.5 million have missed work.

“Even looking simply at lost work days, the bill is in the billions of dollars. The broader impacts and recovery efforts will cost many billions more and take many years. That is why it is so concerning that rising emissions threaten to make events like this even more common in the future.

“Putting a levy on fossil fuel producers and establishing a National Climate Disaster Fund would move some of the financial burden of these events from the households, businesses and taxpayers that are currently forced to pick up the tab.

“This research suggests that, as Australians face the escalating impacts of climate change in their own lives, calls for policies that reduce carbon emissions will continue to grow.”

A polling brief, including detailed results, is available here

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