Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Fiona Armstrong, Associate, Melbourne Sustainable Societies Institute, University of Melbourne; Sessional Lecturer, School of Public Health and Human Biosciences, La Trobe University

As the new Australian parliament takes the reins, health groups are moving to ensure that health minister Sussan Ley addresses a major health threat in this term of government: climate change.

Largely ignored by successive federal governments, the health risks from climate change are increasingly urgent. One or two degrees of warming at a global level may not sound like much, but if you take many organisms (including humans) too far outside their comfort zone, the consequences are deadly.

The Climate and Health Alliance – a coalition of concerned health groups, researchers, academics and professional associations – is calling on the Australian government to develop a national strategy for climate, health and well-being.

How climate change affects health

Major increases in ill-health are anticipated from continued climate change. These include:

  • greater rates of injuries, disease and deaths associated with more intense heatwaves, fires and other extreme weather events;

  • increased risks of infectious and food- and water-borne diseases;

  • health consequences arising from lost work capacity because of extreme weather;

  • harmful effects on community mental health; and

  • increasing air pollution.

image World Health Organisation In February 2009, by which time global average temperatures had increased by less than one degree, Victoria experienced temperatures between 12-15 degrees above the average. That single heatwave caused the devastating Black Saturday bushfires. It was also responsible for a 62% increase in deaths, from both direct heat-related illnesses and the exacerbation of other chronic medical conditions. During this five-day event, ambulances had a 46% increase in demand. Emergency departments experienced an eightfold increase in heat-related presentations, a 2.8-fold increase in cardiac arrests, and a threefold increase in patients dead on arrival. Heat doesn’t just affect the very old and very young. A recent international report shows that a billion workers globally are being exposed to extreme heat. This reduces productivity and puts lives at risk. Global warming is also causing dramatic ecosystem collapse, such as the loss of corals on the Great Barrier Reef, and the recent death of thousands of hectares of mangroves in northern Australia. These will impact on fish stocks and food supply – and therefore, adequate nutrition – for communities that depend on these resources. Preparing the health sector for climate change Federal policymakers in Australia have failed recognise the health threat of climate change or offer robust and effective national policy solutions to tackle it. Governments in the United Kingdom and the United States, in contrast, are helping communities prepare for climate change. They are also investing in measures to promote climate resilience in the healthcare sector. Like all services, the health sector is vulnerable to the direct consequences of extreme weather events such as fires, floods, heatwaves, and storms. These events can disrupt supply chains, electricity services, and water supplies; compromise the safety and quality of food services; suddenly and dramatically increase service demand; and interfere with service delivery through adverse impacts on personnel. image High-emissions activities such as burning coal for energy produce harmful air pollution. www.shutterstock.com When Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, many hospitals were forced to evacuate because of flooding; others were unable to function. Many lost electrical power, and some had back-up generators that failed due to flooding. Subsequent investigations reveal a lack of climate preparedness in the healthcare system. A case study of multiple hospital evacuations during the event revealed that the health system experienced prolonged increased patient volume, displaced staff, and disrupted telecommunications. This created chaos as evacuated patients were transferred with little accompanying information about their diagnosis or required care. The Climate and Health Alliance has proposed a national healthcare standard for “climate resilience”, to ensure the Australian healthcare sector and its workforce are adequately prepared for climate-related health threats. Time for policy commitment As well as the obvious national interest, there is now an obligation under the Paris climate agreement for nations to consider their citizens' “right to health” in the context of climate policy. There is also an obligation to ensure that the health benefits from climate mitigation are reflected in climate policy choices. These benefits are potentially huge. A recent US study estimated the savings on healthcare spending from carbon-reduction policies can be more than ten times the cost of policy implementation. While there is strong evidence emerging in the international literature about the health benefits from strategies to cut emissions, that work is yet to be done in Australia. As a signatory of the Paris Agreement, the Australian government must now apply a “health lens” to all of its climate policies. The Climate and Health Alliance is today calling for Australia to develop a national strategy for climate, health and well-being, which would allow Australia to: adequately respond to the risks to health from climate change; support the health sector to build climate resilience and transition to low-carbon operations; promote education and awareness about climate change and health among the health professions and the wider community, so both can be better prepared; strengthen climate and health research to identify population groups and communities particularly vulnerable to health risks from climate change and develop strategies to reduce those risks; and invest in research to quantify the health benefits of different emissions-reduction scenarios to guide climate policy choices. Current Australian carbon reduction commitments are inadequate to limit global warming to a safe level, and climate policies do not reflect the risks or opportunities for health. Lives are being put at risk. We need a coordinated national response, with leadership from the health minister, but involving all portfolios, to protect the health of all people in Australia from climate change.

Authors: Fiona Armstrong, Associate, Melbourne Sustainable Societies Institute, University of Melbourne; Sessional Lecturer, School of Public Health and Human Biosciences, La Trobe University

Read more http://theconversation.com/climate-policy-needs-a-new-lens-health-and-well-being-62482

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Scott Morrison interview with Ray Hadley

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.    HADLEY: Jeez you copped a hammering while I was away.   PRIME MINISTER: Goes with the job mate.    HADLEY: Well, yo...

Ray Hadley - avatar Ray Hadley

Immediate small business support for bushfire affected communities

In response to the devastating bushfires, the Morrison Government has today announced a comprehensive suite of measures to immediately support impacted small businesses.    This initial package ...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison Press Conference - Australian Parliament House

Good afternoon. While we are facing more benign weather conditions in the short term, this morning, I received briefings from the Bureau of Meteorology, which set out that over the medium term out...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

How to Choose the Right Data Recovery Solution for your Business

In the modern business environment, data is one of the most important commodities. A typical B2C seller, for instance, offering home delivery service cannot deliver the product to the right addres...

News Company - avatar News Company

CrowdStrike Services Cyber Front Lines Report

New CrowdStrike Report Finds an Increase in Cyber Adversaries Turning to Business Disruption as Main Attack Objective CrowdStrike Services Cyber Front Lines Report offers observations gained from t...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

Which web design software is best for beginners

There are dozens of site-builders and software devoted to the art of creating a website. Some of these, like the one offered by Adobe, are more technically oriented and in many cases require a backg...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

The Family Travel Handbook from Lonely Planet

Everything you need to know to take unforgettable trips with your children   Full of practical advice, ideas and inspiration for every type of family, Lonely Planet's The Family Travel Handbook ...

Adam Bennett - avatar Adam Bennett

3 Ideas for a Family-Friendly Holiday to Bali

A family holiday is always an exciting time, but it can often come with its fair share of challenges, especially when trying to keep every member of the family happy. Thankfully, the beautiful islan...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Best Things to Do in Adelaide Hills

Adelaide Hills has long been a relaxing escape for the people of Adelaide and beyond. Its proximity to the capital makes it an accessible destination that feels like you’re miles away from the hustl...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo