Climate change and health in rural Australia


Dr Rosalie Shultz writes, "How has climate change affected you, your community and your workplace? Bushfires have devastated much of the Larapinta Trail near my home in Alice Springs.  Favourite sites and sections are incinerated. I feel grief and sorrow at loss of beauty, but also fear for destruction of ecosystems and the contribution of these fires to ongoing invasion of the region by weeds." 

Tourism, an important industry in central Australia, may slump as people decide to holiday elsewhere and it is likely that some operators will suffer financial loss and associated stresses. People may leave the region forever. 

Fires are occurring across the country, often in regions that have never burnt before: Tasmanian rainforests, and the ancient karri forest of south-west Western Australia. Climate change is causing longer and more extreme fire seasons, which are stretching our firefighting resources. 

In Hobart recently, bushfire smoke caused levels of air pollution higher than some of the most polluted cities in the world. Air pollution – coming from bushfires, burning fossil fuels and other sources – causes increase in heart disease, respiratory disease, asthma, low birthweight babies and premature death. In the last few months we have seen impacts of climate change throughout the country – heatwaves gripping most of Australia in January, devastating floods in Townsville, drought in New South Wales. January 2019 was Australia’s hottest month ever recorded. Heatwaves cause the most deaths of any natural disaster, with groups like the elderly, children, those with chronic disease, and outdoor workers the most vulnerable to dehydration, heat stress and potentially fatal heatstroke. 

First published in Partyline on 7 March 2019.

Read the full article here.



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