Human pressure on the natural environment is widening and escalating. Environmental threats to human wellbeing, health and survival has become evident over the past two to three decades.
Doctors for the Environment Australia seeks to raise awareness of the risks to local and global human health – present and future – from environmentally damaging and disruptive technological choices and related short-term economic priorities.
DEA is focussed on human-induced climate change, widely regarded as now the most serious, and growing, worldwide threat to human health and survival and to social stability.
Although the Western Australian inquiry into fracking has been concluded, the State Government is yet to release its recommendations on the future of this industry. Former Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Stanley, and WA DEA Chair Dr Richard Yin write that a public health approach would favour caution until the evidence for the industry's safety is clear.
Over the next few weeks, school and university students will be sitting their end of year exams. Often an anxious occasion, the latest research shows these end of year assessments will likely prove to be challenging for one reason more than most – the heat, writes Dr Beau Frigault.
The Bramble Cay melomys is the first mammal species whose demise can be attributed directly to climate change. Rising global temperatures will have grim outcomes for many living things. DEA's National Chair Professor Kingsley Faulkner, who was interviewed for this article, highlights that human health will be a major cost.
Climate change is not only the biggest global health threat this century, it has also become the most urgent health threat. The impacts of climate change at 1°C rise of global warming are already apparent. Weather extremes have resulted in record-breaking fires, floods, storms, heat waves and droughts. Our children are at the greatest risk from climate change-- their bodies and minds are less able to cope with extreme weather and they also stand to lose most in terms of life years lost.
"As a broadly trained life scientist, my concern about climate change isn’t the health of the planet. The rocks will be just fine! What worries me is a whole spectrum of “wicked” challenges, from sustaining food production, to providing clean water, to maintaining wildlife diversity and the green environments that ensure the survival of complex life on Earth", writes Nobel laureate Professor Peter Doherty.
If Western Australia were to be opened up to unconventional gas mining, emissions from this source alone would have the potential to exceed by three times Australia's total emissions budget for energy, writes DEA's WA Chair Dr Richard Yin. With the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report highlighting that we are in a climate emergency, it's time the Mark McGowan Government shows leadership on this critical issue.
Doctors for the Environment Australia calls on all candidates in the Wentworth by-election on Saturday to support increased action on climate change. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report endorsed by the Australian Medical Association, highlights that we are in the midst of a climate emergency and urgent action is required to decarbonize, including the rapid phasing out of coal-fired electricity and an end to our dependence on fossil fuels.
As concerned citizens in Europe and the US take governments to the courts for their failure to act on climate change, Dr Graeme McLeay asks whether the Australian government should now stand accused of the same negligence.
DEA in South Australia has contributed to the South Australian Public Health Plan 2019-2024, building on our previous Submissions on the 2013 Plan and during Consultation on the new Plan. DEA affirms much of what is included in the draft State Public Health Plan but have advocated for climate change being an urgent and cross-cutting issue rather than one among a number of other priorities. We have also indicated that the links between human health and the environment must be strengthened, and that the development of a sustainable and climate-resilient health system provides a key opportunity for progress. DEA has indicated that resources for implementation governance are essential and that we are willing to continue to work with SA Health on this important State Public Health Plan.
Climate change can lead to 'solastalgia', writes Dr Richard Yin ahead of Mental Health Week starting Monday 7 October. While nostalgia relates to pain from leaving one's home, solastagia is the homesickness you have when your home or sense of place is damaged.
Bushfires can have significant physical and psychological impacts on those who experience them, and pollutants from bushfires affect air quality, not only locally, but up to thousands of kilometres away from their source, writes DEA's Queensland Chair Dr Beau Frigault.
Why are we stripping the very foundations that sustain us? Biodiversity loss and climate change are together set to transform us to an alien world and our survival can't be left to politicians, writes DEA's Honorary Secretary Dr David Shearman.
Climate change denial is the denial of many public health casualties. For example, the increasing number of injuries and deaths from extreme weather events and the psychological and economic trauma consequent to severe climatic change. New Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who when Treasurer carried coal into Parliament, has appointed avid anti-wind farm campaigner, Angus Taylor, as Energy Minister and ex-coal-company lawyer, Melissa Price, as Environment Minister. There has been no mention of climate change in either portfolio. Read more -->
Thirty NSW Hunter Valley doctors, including members of DEA, are among 100 people who have signed a joint letter to the NSW Ministers for Health and the Environment, asking them to visit the region and experience for themselves the poor air quality caused by the coal mining industry which is putting the community at risk. Read more—>
Agriculture is on the frontline of a climate emergency. Farmers’ livelihoods depend on their capacity to survive changes such as drought; and everyone’s survival depends on their ability to continue growing our food. So why does Australia not have a plan to cope with climate change events? asks DEA's NSW Chair Dr John Van Der Kallen. Read more-->
Along with the rest of the Western world, Australia now more than ever is bereft of leadership on crucial action to curb global warming, writes DEA’s Honorary Secretary Dr David Shearman. However in order to save lives, the need for change must be accepted by the corporate empires that pollute and exploit the natural environment, and by our political class starting with our new PM Scott Morrison. Read more—>
The federal government has been bullishly promoting its proposed signature energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), which aims to ensure reliable and affordable ongoing electricity supply, despite rogue elements within the party, led by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who are set on derailing it. But there are important reasons why Australia doctors should reject the NEG, write Drs Chris Juttner and John Iser. Read more -->
Some members of the Coalition are in a state of denial — denial in the face of the global consequences of climate change, writes DEA's Dr Graeme McLeay. Heatwaves and wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere are killing people and drought is again ravaging rural communities in Australia. Yet we are now in a surreal world where consequences and causes are disconnected, where science is ignored in the face of existential threats and where building coal-fired power stations is viewed by some in Government – such as former PM Abbott, Member for Hughes Craig Kelly and Resource Minister Matt Canavan, among others – as some sort of an answer to Australia’s future. Read more -->
Climate change is fundamentally a health issue. Doctors' groups need to face up to this truth and divest from hazardous fossil fuels, which are one of the primary drivers of rising temperatures, writes DEA's Richard Yin in this piece for doctorportal.
Doctors urge energy ministers ahead of the COAG meeting on Friday to “reject absolutely” the current National Energy Guarantee proposal, as it will delay the necessary decarbonisation needed to stabilise rising emissions that are contributing to the harrowing extreme weather events in Australia and globally.
In welcome news, the American Medical Association recently voted to divest their financial holdings from fossil fuel companies. To date the only major medical organisation in Australia to move its investments from these hazardous fuels has been the RACP. DEA has written to the AMA, RACGP, RACS, ANZCA, ACEM, RANZCOG, RANZCP, ACRMM urging them to divest from fossil fuels and signal their commitment to action on climate change. Read the letter HERE.
The recently released UK climate plan should be compulsory reading for the Australian Government, because we have no such plan, writes Dr David Shearman who poignantly highlights that: "Considering the lives that will be lost, this is negligence in medical terms. And as a doctor, it concerns me greatly: all doctors recognise the vital need for adaptation to manage the growing health risks of climate change." Read more HERE.
THE Coalition’s rush to implement the National Energy Guarantee looks set to lock in a continued reliance on fossil fuels for our energy-- despite clean alternatives, writes DEA's Dr Rohan Church. While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull may claim to be "technology-agnostic" when it comes to securing our energy, it's impossible to remain agnostic when faced with the significant disease burden from coal-fired power generation. Read more HERE.
It is concerning when a leading voice in Australian politics says that as a country, we need to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. The likes of Mr Abbott fall into the category of deniers who choose not to believe that climate change is a terrifying reality. Read this prescription for Mr Abbott from Queensland General Practitioner and DEA State Secretary Lucy-Jane Watt.
DEA’s submission to the detailed design consultation paper emphasises that, once again, the Energy Security Board (ESB) has completely failed to consider any of the health problems and health costs associated with pollution, climate change and rising electricity prices. The ESB and the federal government totally ignore the other 2/3 of emissions production from transport, industry and manufacturing and agriculture. They have no policies in these areas. This means that Australia will fail to meet its Paris Agreement Targets. Australia will fail its global commitment to emissions reduction. These failures guarantee deaths and illness for the people of Australia.
Download the ESB - Draft Detailed Design of the National Energy Guarantee Consultation Paper submission
The failure of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) to reduce carbon emissions will place Australians at more risk of sickness and death from extreme weather events, warn medical doctors ahead of the Turnbull Government’s plans to approve the NEG in August.
Federal Government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG) is being
presented as a bipartisan solution to electrical energy supply. However, DEA
agrees with energy experts that this proposal only entrenches the dominance of
coal-fired power in the eastern states and locks-out the emergence of more
renewable energy. With the NEG, ambitious emissions reduction would be
overlooked in the interests of false claims that a dominance of coal-fired
power is the only way to ensure energy security and reliability.
Download the National Energy Guarantee - Draft Detailed Design for Consultation - Commonwealth Elements submission
It is predictable that an economist (Comment, The Australian 19/6) would look purely at economics to downplay the necessity of emissions reduction. To use simplified and somewhat distorted economics without considering the science of climate change and its broader repercussions on the biosphere does us no service.
Getting people to listen to and understand the consequences of climate change can seem daunting. As DEA's Dr Kim Loo explains, advocacy can begin in our own home electorates. Her simple strategies of persistence and respect regardless of individual views are helping to shift opinions and encourage the societal changes that are needed to protect our planet. Read more.
South Australia's second state public health plan is currently under development. The DEA(SA) committee recently prepared a submission commenting on the draft summary framework for the new plan, highlighting opportunities for increased consideration of environmental health issues and the need for a 'climate and health in all policies' approach. DEA(SA) has offered to provide ongoing input during the development of the new plan, with a draft expected in August 2018.
Download DEA's submission to the summary framework for consultation: SA DRAFT State Public Health Plan 2019-2024.
The Coalition’s failure to mention climate change even once in the budget is a reckless betrayal of the community’s right to good health— especially for young Australians. Young people are recognising that they are the most affected by the government’s decisions and becoming more politically active. Youth groups such as The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network SEED and Fossil Free Unis are engaging in political activism such as protesting, petitioning and in direct communication with politicians. Medical student members of Doctors for the Environment Australia promote divesting from fossil fuels for doctors, their universities and for themselves as well as briefing politicians.
Read the full article in Open Forum from Edward Stoios, student member of DEA Queensland Committee.
The Conversation is a prestigious publication and DEA publishes in it from time to time. The Conversation is having its annual donations drive and to mark this, 8 articles known by the editors to have had an impact over the past 12 months are republished.
One of the eight is by Peter Doherty, member of DEA Scientific Advisory Committee on the New Generation of Environmental Laws. Read here.
Our healthcare sector produces 7% of Australia's emissions. Hospitals are only responsible for half of that, but there are many ways to reduce their environmental footprint and improve sustainability. DEA's Dr Forbes McGain, an expert in sustainability, outlines five of them.
DEA is proud to bring you the Story of Green Hospitals, a must-view short video on sustainable healthcare by our talented medical student members! While hospitals are designed to improve health, they also contribute to the burden of disease because of their significant environmental footprint. There are a range of practical solutions that hospitals can adopt to improve health outcomes for people and planet, as well as reduce costs to the healthcare budget. View now!
In his Budget reply speech last week, Opposition leader Bill Shorten mentioned tax 39 times and climate change twice, while hospitals were mentioned 12 times. Shorten missed an important opportunity to advocate for urgent climate action, according to Professor David Shearman who is the Hon Secretary of Doctors for the Environment Australia and Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Adelaide. Shearman says the 2018 federal budget should have been a piece of cake for climate and health, leadership and democracy. Instead, the carve-up of the budgetary chocolate cake was driven by self-interest, rather than care for future generations.
Emissions reduction targets are not an idle, notional concept but give reassurance and certainty to those involved in changing the energy mix.
DEA suggests that the Victorian government should be setting strong targets up to 2030 in pursuit of its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, in order to safeguard the health of future generations.” Read full article in Renew Economy.
A Healthcare Sustainability Unit (HSU) would assist the Australian health care system (primary, secondary and tertiary) to deliver quality health care in environmentally and financially sustainable ways. A HSU could lead research, policy development, system changes and education of staff, fulfilling a central national co-ordinating role for maximum effectiveness and successful implementation of initiatives at state, regional, health network, hospital and practice levels.
Download the DEA HSU Proposal 05-18
The Tasmanian Government may well be celebrating an apparent benchmark of becoming Australia’s first carbon neutral state 30 years ahead of its plans. But as Dr Rohan Church writes in this opinion piece, the reality is that the Will Hodgman Government is riding on the back of a collapse in the logging industry, and has taken few, if any, active steps towards this goal.
Among the long list of initiatives aimed at giving Australians a “fair go”, Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s much-awaited budget reply speech did not offer anything new on climate change, emissions or renewables. This is despite the urgent need to address global warming, a public health emergency whose impacts we are seeing daily through avoidable sickness and deaths from extreme weather events. Nonetheless while Labor could have dared to be bolder, raised the bar that much further on climate policies, these are a step in the right direction.
To initiate change within large highly structured organisations such as hospitals is not easy. Doctors for the Environment Australia’s (DEA) practical guide therefore aims to identify areas where change can most easily be initiated to improve a hospital’s environmental impact. Though some suggestions may be seemingly trivial, experience indicates that all of the suggestions in this guide can have a positive impact on environmental outcomes and that doctors can help instigate change. 58% of the NHS’s 2015 CO2 emissions were from the procurement of goods and services (15% medical drugs) whilst powering of buildings contributed to 20% of emissions and staff and patient travel 12%.
Download the DEA Sustainable Hospitals Guide - practical assistance
It is the opinion of DEA that the federal budget was a short-sighted political maneuver at the expense of a looming climate crisis that will weigh heavily on our children’s future. The scant attention to climate change mitigation and adaptation will dent the government’s capacity to deliver these goals. The budget failed health by almost halving climate spending to $1.6 billion, dropping to $1.2 billion by 2020, and by phasing out of the Renewable Energy Target by 2020. This shows there is no commitment in this budget to do anything about curbing emissions beyond this time.
DEA is concerned by the outlook for human and planetary health of inadequate control of global warming and climate change. In a submission to the Victorian government on emissions reduction targets, DEA supports the leadership and actions undertaken by Victoria in the absence of genuine action by the Federal Government to meet Australia’s commitments to the Paris Agreement 2015.
Download DEA's submission to the Independent Expert Panel on the Interim Emissions Reduction Targets for Victoria (2021 – 2030).
"There is no planet B" says President Macron in an electrifying speech to Congress, yet for most of us climate change is of much less concern than the cost of living, taxes, schools and health services. As a slow creeping threat, "unlikely to affect me much anyway", climate change is easy to dismiss and therefore is never high on the election stakes where it is easy for our leaders to say they are doing everything they should — which they are not. Read full article on ABC NEWS online
The Anthropocene is of great significance to modern medicine. Air pollution, climate change, extreme weather events and food insecurity are now some of human health’s most pressing issues. Most days in my general practice I see a patient whose presentation has some connection to our rapidly changing ecosystem. Read full article in Medical Observer or on the DEA site (read on).
environments, climate change, and poor diet are major contributors to both
chronic and acute illnesses. Changes to the way we produce our food, and the
type of food we eat, are urgently required for both human and planetary health.
Health, sustainable diet and agriculture Position Statement
The United Nations sets these goals not just for developing countries but for all countries including Australia. Although Australia has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, our SDG targets, particularly on health and the environment, have slipped 6 places in the last reporting year to 26th place globally. Furthermore, our overseas development aid to help others attain their goals is inadequate. DEA has made a submission to Parliament on SDGs.
Download DEA's submission to the Senate on the Inquiry into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The federal government must establish an independent statutory authority much like the Reserve Bank to provide strong climate action based on consensus scientific and technological expertise to meet the unprecedented threats of climate change to human health and survival.
The gas norflurane, most often found in asthma metered dose inhalers, is 1,430 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. Another, apaflurane, is 3,220 times more potent. Globally, tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide equivalent are attributable annually to these inhaler gases.
Malcolm Turnbull has accused Senator Richard Di Natale of a lack of empathy in making the connection between climate and bushfires following the late season bushfires in Victoria and NSW in recent days, saying now is not the time to “politicise” these terrible events.
Australia has a long history of bushfire disasters. The loss of almost 70 homes in Tathra, New South Wales, and 18 homes in southwest Victoria this week has again reminded us of the risks and huge personal costs of living in a fire-prone country. The risk is increasing as fires the world over are expanding in every dimension – in their timing, with extended seasons of favourable fire weather, frequency and severity.
To address the health impacts of climate change - the greatest global health threat of the 21st century - national leadership and reform of governance are urgently needed.
On Monday evening ABC’s 4 Corners aired an episode ‘Weather Alert’ looking at how Australia’s changing climate is impacting people. Mounting evidence suggests our changing climate is having an impact on everything - from what we grow, eat and drink, to house prices and the cost of insurance. Doctors for the Environment Australia provided the health segment for rising temperatures also have a significant, often ignored, impact on health.
We have a chance to shape Tasmanians' future health by demanding government takes climate change seriously. Rohan Church is a Launceston doctor and Chair of the Tasmanian branch of Doctors for the Environment Australia.
In this submission DEA analyses the current SA public health plan in the light of our submission; South Australia: A Better Place to Live 2013.
We conclude it is necessary to show more urgency in climate change mitigation, to bring climate change into all policies and to work for national coordination through the development of a National Environmental Protection Agency.
Most Tasmanians are aware extreme weather events of recent years were made more severe by the changing
climate, and are likely to become more common and more intense over the next few decades.
Our climate is becoming hotter. This is our reality. Extreme heat is already responsible for hundreds of deaths every year. It’s a big environmental killer, and deaths from heatwaves in Australian cities are expected to double in the next 40 years.
It’s common knowledge that the amount of sand on beaches changes over time. In heavy seas, sand is eroded from beaches. In calmer periods, sand is deposited. However, we are entering a new world and can no longer be reassured by the past processes where sand on beaches is replenished.
The Turnbull Government may have hoped releasing Australia’s latest greenhouse gas emissions together with the 2017 Climate Report would pass unnoticed, given the sneaky way it announced them just days before Christmas.
Bushfires have always been a part of the Australian ecology, but now that ecology is changing.
Last week, Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (Europe) announced the results of their annual survey of countries’ climate change action throughout the world.
Who is the best at being the worst? Who does the most to do the least? And who is working really hard to wreck our climate?
These were some questions on the minds of judges of the “Fossil of the Day” awards at the recent COP23 talks in Bonn.
Dr Alice McGushin, a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia, was there to collect on behalf of Australia. It was a “bittersweet moment”, she writes below in her final report from the climate talks (read her previous article for Croakey here).
In what health experts describe as embarrassing and shameful, Australia has come in as one of the worst performers in an annual assessment of 57 nations’ climate policies, heading only three other countries.
Will they kick the coal to save the coral?
“And it is that of a Fijian, a Pacific Islander, who comes from a region of the world that is bearing the brunt of climate change. Whether it is the rising seas, extreme weather events or changes to agriculture, that threaten our way of life and in some cases, our very existence.”
Doctors have today called for a comprehensive government plan to better prepare the health system, including emergency hospital departments, to cope with the extra admissions from the projected increases in heatwaves.
A new study warning Australia’s major cities are likely to reach highs of 50C by 2040 – even if the world meets its target of limiting warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels – is yet more evidence that without immediate and urgent action we are facing a looming public health crisis during heatwaves and other extreme weather events.
Most members of the community will recognise the team-work, devotion and skill of doctors, nurses and technical staff in delivering new life in cardiac, brain or trauma surgery or freedom from the misery of pain conferred by hip and knee surgery
The rapid expansion of the coal and unconventional gas industries has not only created widespread community concern over health and environmental issues but it has exposed the inadequate processes whereby the New South Wales (NSW) government is acting as proponent in their perceived interest of economic development whereas they should be acting as arbiter.
….It is also increasingly apparent that, even with a 2°C rise, the world will be greatly changed from present, with economic budgets greatly stressed by reparation of infrastructure and all the pillars of life, water, food, air quality and biodiversity-resilience under stress and facing likely deterioration…..
In her review of the book, Dr Rosalie Schultz, from Doctors for the Environment Australia, welcomes its currency and accuracy. But she notes Butler’s determination to continue to wage the political war on climate change, and lack of acknowledgement of Labor’s failures and restraints. Thus, she says, the book loses an opportunity to “address the climate conflict through a transformative approach”.
Climate Wars is published by Melbourne University Press.
It is also very important that the NAIF also takes into account our responsibilities to various international agreements such as the Paris Agreement. This would seem consistent with the paragraph in the White Paper – “The north will be an exemplar of sustainable development. The development of major population centres of more than a million people will underwrite substantial exports of planning, design, architecture and construction to the Tropics”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statement that “Those people who say coal and other fossil fuels have no future are delusional and they fly in the face of all economic forecasts” confirms that four Australian states were right to go it alone, after his government failed to deliver a clean energy target at the COAG meeting.
The Turnbull Government has once again prioritised growing the economy over human lives, writes Dr Kris Barnden.
Doctors in stethoscopes and surgical masks will today deliver a letter highlighting the risks to health from the proposed Adani coal mine to the Commonwealth Bank’s Board of Directors in Sydney.
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) is concerned about the health effects of climate change on humans and the biosphere on which humans depend. DEA is also cognisant of policies that can address both existing health problems and reduce the impact of climate change. It is in this holistic risk–co-benefit framework that DEA examines the climate change policies of Australian federal and state governments.
DEA notes that the Climate Change Authority (CCA) will join with the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) to review an Independent Review into the Future Security of the NEM. The report of this Independent Review is not yet available, so why there has to be further review of an unpublished Review is problematic and raises questions of probity.
DEA commends The Climate Change Authority for taking a lead in exploring the ways in which Australia’s agricultural sector can move from being a major contributor to climate change and degradation of natural resources to being part of the solution, whilst maintaining or improving productivity.
Immediate Past Vice President of the AMA asks Are Australia’s Emergency Response systems prepared for the Climate Emergency?
Universities and professional organisations must better prepare doctors and medical students to deal with the impacts of climate change, urge Australia’s leading medics.
Doctors are calling for action on climate change, linking it to conditions such as respiratory diseases and childhood illnesses and also highlighting the need for emergency preparedness.
Energy reliability and security, and affordability which are all essential for the cohesion and health of our society can be achieved by the continued inclusion of renewable energy into the market; small- and large-scale wind and solar, supported by smart switching and controlling technologies; and by energy storage facilities such as batteries, pumped hydro and concentrated solar thermal.
DEA is keen for the electorate to take climate change seriously. It is imperative that the voters consider climate change as a priority when voting. As a result we have created two posters that can be distributed widely.
The Victorian Government has recently completed its comprehensive review of the VIC Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and has committed $45.5 million over the next 18 months to extend its scope and powers, a sizable injection considering the EPAs current annual operating budget of approximately $70 million a year, suggesting a sincere desire by the Government for true reform.
To address the health impacts of climate change – the greatest global health threat of the 21st century – national leadership and governance are needed.
One way of looking at emissions targets is as a fixed budget amount, or quota. This countdown shows one estimate of how long it will take to reach an amount of greenhouse gas emissions beyond which 2C of warming will be likely.
With summer here, the brown, crunchy, lifeless patches on my lawn in Perth remind me that much of Australia is getting hotter and drier. Working in public health, it also reminds me of a call to action – not just for me, but for all of us. Not for more wetting agent and regular watering (although, yes, that will be needed).
On reviewing the Interim report one is encouraged by the availability of natural energy resources in Tasmania. Unlike most other states Tasmania has three quarters of stationary energy available through hydro and it has unlimited wind, solar and other modalities which with storage would make the state self-sufficient in clean energy and attain zero emissions from its energy sector…….
It is bushfire season in WA again, and we know the wildfires are getting worse each year. The State Government is trying to ramp up awareness of the bushfire risk and more money is being put into firefighting services. This investment is desperately needed, but it is not nearly enough.
Australia’s increase in greenhouse emissions is freeloading on other countries which are taking action to reduce them.
As the Australian Government’s climate change policy is struggling for credibility, it is more important than ever that we try to make a difference collectively and as individuals to help minimise global warming. Dr Kim Loo explains how.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should consider his position if he is not prepared to listen with an open mind to the policy advice from the experts at the COAG Leaders meeting on Friday 9 December.
After the tragic deaths of eight people related to the recent outbreak of thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne, we need to consider the “perfect storm” of climate change.
DEA member Ralph Lewis has drawn our attention to the program With One Seed, http://withoneseed.org.au/ involving reforestation, carbon capture as well as providing income for local landholders in Timor.
An overview of concerns by DEA member A/Prof Vicki Kotsirilos
The impact of chemicals such as heavy metals and pesticides in the environment on human health is well recognised.1 What is not well recognised is the impact of plastics in the environment on human health.
In what health experts describe as an “embarrassing and shameful” result, Australia has come in as one of the worst performers in an annual assessment of 61 nations’ climate policies, with only Korea, Kazakhstan, Japan and Saudi Arabia ranking worse.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has today welcomed the launch of the Lancet Countdown at the climate talks in Morocco, saying the landmark initiative would put pressure on Australia and other countries to keep the promises they made in the Paris agreement.
The results of the US election are in.
If Donald Trump does to the environment what he said he would do as President, the hard-fought progress to protect our ailing planet looks set to take a giant leap backwards- just at the crucial time when we need to take giant leap forwards to ensure our survival. The Lancet has described climate change as the biggest health threat of the 21st century.
Medicine in the early decades of the 21st century offers great promise, powered by ready access to knowledge, innovative imaging and interventional technologies, sophisticated research, and personalised pharmaceuticals. Despite this, doctors of the next decades will be faced with unique national and global challenges that they are currently ill equipped to deal with.
Peter Brooks recounts a very personal account of his recent trip – sailing in the footsteps of Franklin – with the stark impact of climate change on the Arctic and its populations.
DEA is concerned with the projected devastating effects of climate change on human health (and by extension, all forms of life in the biosphere). We note that the Paris Agreement does not deal with health adequately. The Treaty does acknowledge, rather inconspicuously…….
Editorial by Patrick Walker, the Doctus Project
It is a bright, sunny afternoon in May, and Victoria’s hottest Autumn on record is drawing to a close. My colleague Jesse Schnall and I are waiting to meet with Dr John Iser, the Victorian Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA). DEA is a voluntary organisation made up of medical doctors from around Australia to address the threat climate change and environmental degradation pose to health. They work ‘to address…the diseases caused by damage to the Earth’s environment.’
Having both read the now famous 2009 Lancet report which concluded that climate change is the biggest threat to global health in the 21st century, we are intrigued to see what Dr Iser has to say on the issue. Does climate change really pose such a threat to our health? And if so, what should we – and our government – be doing about it?
Doctors for the Environment Australia has made many formal submissions from our medical and scientific experts and have had the opportunity to observe the processes and performance of successive Queensland governments. On this occasion we will make some general observations and comments in relation to the report “Advancing Climate Action in Queensland. Making the transition to a low carbon future”.
Building on experiences between farmers and gas drilling operators in other states, in the absence of baseline studies, contamination and pollution by exploration and mining activities cannot be proved and so cannot be attributed to such activities. For example the Condamine River in Queensland…….
There is much discussion in the medical and general media about the healthiness of food. Hardly surprising, as we face an unfolding epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases which, along with inactivity, are in large part related to our dietary excess.
Doctors will on Monday morning deliver Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull his very own Climate Change Survival Health Kit along with an open letter signed by over 350 health professionals to highlight that climate change is hazardous to health and must be tackled with urgency.
Doctors welcome Labor’s policy to tackle climate change, but urge more robust action to reduce the numbers of Australians who are likely to get sick and to die as a result of rising temperatures.
….oil and gas developments must be undertaken in a manner that will both protect the health of its citizens, preserve and enhance the Territory’s unique surroundings, our way of life and ensure the viability of other crucial sectors of our economy such as agriculture and tourism……
Doctors have today launched a climate change and health fact sheet describing the catastrophic consequences a continued rise in global temperature will have on the health of our families and communities, unless we act immediately.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has developed this fact sheet to outline the effects of climate change on human health particularly in Australia, and how health can benefit from efforts to lessen and prevent climate change. The recent Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has once more highlighted the urgent need for action to limit global warming.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has developed this fact sheet to outline the effects of climate change on human health particularly in Australia, and how health can benefit from efforts to lessen and prevent climate change. The recent Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has once more highlighted the urgent need for action to limit global warming.
Climate change is described by leaders of the medical profession as the greatest health risk of this century. Its health impacts are already significant both internationally and in Australia and are predicted to increase with rising temperatures. The severity of natural disasters from extreme weather events is increased by climate change and is an important cause of harms to our health.
Tasmania and Australia more broadly, is already experiencing the human health impacts of longer, hotter and more frequent heatwaves , with recent heatwaves around Australia producing increased hospital admissions and deaths, and putting extra strain on healthcare and emergency services. Recent years have also seen increasingly frequent and severe bushfires in Tasmania. Bushfires pose numerous risks to health including direct injuries, burns and deaths from the fires themselves, as well as through cardiorespiratory effects of smoke on people living hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away….
It’s very likely that Australians will suffer more ill health requiring attention from GPs and hospitals because of climate change- however scant attention is being given to health, medical experts will argue today in a submission to the Climate Change Authority.
It is a great disappointment that numerous Climate Change Authority discussions and documents on the issue of climate change have failed to emphasise its impact on health. To avoid widespread, severe and irreversible impacts associated with present trajectory of 4 degrees of global warming, urgent action must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The response of Government thus far has been grossly inadequate – and that Australia needs to commit to a reduction target on 2020 levels of at least 40% by 2025 and a reduction of at least 95% by 2050. This is the only way that we might be able to confine global temperature rise to 2°C and thus avoid severe consequences to human health. The time to act is now.
With the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) now underway, Associate Professor Linda Selvey’s Perspectives article on the health impacts of global warming in the Medical Journal of Australia is both timely and compelling.
Doctors extend their sympathies to those affected by the South Australian bushfires, and call for strong action on climate
In the first of a two-part video, Dr Helen Redmond, Rehabilitation Physician, introduces Doctors for the Environment Australia- who we are, what we do and why we do it.
Parents, Grandparents and Concerned Adults: SIGN THE OPEN LETTER
Support Our Call For The Health Minister To Attend The Paris Meeting On Climate Change This December- And Put The Health Of Our Children Front And Centre
Climate change is a priority issue for DEA. As the 1st Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health stated in 2009, “climate change is the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century”. The consultation papers for “Developing a New Climate Change Strategy for SA” make very little reference to health. DEA believes health is central to any strategy around climate change as affirmed by the Lancet publications cited above. Our foremost recommendation is to prepare this consultative document urgently.
Global warming is the driver of climate change, although we note that there is no mention of “global warming” in the Act of 2010. It is warming of the land, seas and atmosphere close to earth’s surface and subsequent changes to our climate that is predicted to cause increasingly profound harmful effects to human health and well being unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced substantially within the next decade……
JENNIFER DOGGETT: The medical profession has taken a lead role in many respects on climate change and environmental issues but there is still scope for more to be done. In the following piece, Dr Sujata Allan, argues that doctors have both a responsibility and a unique role in play in advocating for greater action to combat climate change. She also offers a number of practical suggestions for how members of the medical profession can become more involved at a personal and professional level in preventing the harms associated with climate change.
Climate change has become a highly polarised issue in Australia, with the focus on the economic and political costs and risks.
A group of leading doctors, many of them grandparents, has called for action on a threat they say needs priority attention. The doctors say failure to act on this threat means we are failing in the most “fundamental call of humanity” – that is, to nurture its young.
DEA’s report No Time for Games: Children’s Health and Climate Change shines the national spotlight on the potential health harms that children especially face from global warming, and calls for swift and decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Introduction by Croakey journalist, Marie McInerney
Treasurer Joe Hockey copped quite a lampooning when he raised the prospect of people living until they are 150 to explain why Australians should accept cuts to government benefits and pay a greater share of their health costs.
But Dr George Crisp says we all are too happy to accept the idea that longevity still will steadily increase, as it has over the past century.
Climate change has now become a major health issue and delaying action is “grossly irresponsible”, argues the chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia and former president of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Professor Kingsley Faulkner, in this feature story in the March 2015 edition of Surgical News.
Australians, especially children, the elderly and those with chronic illness will have shortened lives and more illness as a result of the federal government’s Direct Action, warns Doctors for the Environment Australia, a health advocacy group representing medical professionals across the country.
It is important for the government to recognise that its statements on climate change are eagerly scrutinised by a world readership which is greatly concerned by the threats to humanity imposed by climate change. DEA wishes to point out the need for a radical reduction in emissions to address the serious consequences that will otherwise arise. These consequences are barely mentioned in the Issues Paper and of particular concern to us is the failure to deal with health consequences anywhere in the document.
The two momentous decisions of the week came from the Guardian newspaper.
The UK Guardian launched a campaign of science and conscience to reverse humanity’s self-destructive pursuit of burning all of the world’s fossil fuels: and in Australia Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre was published.
Submission to the Climate Change Authority on the future remission targets Australia should commit to as part of an effective and equitable global effort to achieve the objective of the UNFCCC (Article 2) or subsequent agreement to which Australia is a party. Doctors for the Environment Australia recommends that Australia commit to a reduction target on 2020 levels of at least 40% by 2025 and 95% by 2050. These targets are based on the severe consequences for human health and well being if global warming is not confined to two degrees. Since the constraint of emissions will have many health co-benefits and therefore cost savings, there will be some reduction in the costs of mitigation and adaptation.
I AM lucky enough to live and work in a beautiful area of bushland on Melbourne’s urban fringe.
By Marie McInerney
The fearsome spectre of Ash Wednesday hung over the Adelaide Hills for five days this week as firefighters battled to control the worst bushfires so far in Australia this summer. Now South Australia, and elsewhere, prepares for flooding rains.
Doctors from across the globe came together at the H20 International Health Summit late last year. Grace Davies, one of the keynote speakers, explains the influence of climate change on existing health and development issues and what she and fellow Australian medical students are doing to address this.
An organisation promoting Pacific youth to take leadership on climate change, called 350 Pacific, organised representatives from 12 Pacific islands to share their stories in Australia last month to provide insight into the human face of climate change.
The IPCC synthesis report finding that we are facing four degrees of warming by 2100 will bring more and more severe effects on the health of individuals and communities, while Australia’s health system and emergency services are likely to find themselves unable to cope with such shock events, warns Doctors for the Environment Australia.
Honorary Secretary David Shearman, who co-authored an Open Letter to the Prime Minister instigated by Tony McMichael and Steve Leeder that was recently published in the MJA, has this week written to every Coalition Senator and Member, asking them to urgently consider the issues raised in the Open Letter and to support putting climate change on the G20 agenda.
The following article published by Independent Australia (7/4/14) appears here under Creative Commons licence.
The following article written by Doctors for the Environment Australia members Mark Braidwood and Catherine Pendrey appeared in MJA InSight (7/4/14) and appears here under Creative Commons licence.
Costa Rica, a developing country without mineral resources, has environmental and climate change policies which should be an example to Australia. It is a leader in environmental sustainability and performance. Nicaragua is very poor and highly susceptible to climate change.
For many years the World Health Organization (WHO) have made it clear that the health care sector should lead by example in terms of reducing climate change pollutants and by demonstrating how climate change mitigation can yield tangible, immediate health benefits.
DEA will again outline the health imperative to reduce Australia`s emissions as quickly as possible. We present the strong case for increasing Australia`s emission reduction target from 5% to 25%, in line with other progressive nations and based on current climate science. In this submission we will again argue that increasing Australia`s CO2 reduction target will have significant health co-benefits for the Australian public and conversely the failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have major health impacts on our citizens in both the short, and particularly the longer, term.
DEA is focussed on human-induced climate change, widely regarded as now the most serious, and growing, worldwide threat to human health and survival and to social stability.
In this submission DEA outline the health imperatives to reduce Australia’s emissions as quickly as possible, and therefore put a strong case for increasing Australia’s 2020 emissions reduction target from 5% to 25%.
In the Draft State Public Health Plan, the focus of the climate change priority must move from its current focus on adaptation to emphasize the urgency and priority of mitigation, with clear strategies outlined for various government and business groups.
This recent report, co-authored by the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) and the Climate Insitute, draws together the many ways in which we can improve health (whilst saving money) by acting to limit climate instability. DEA is part of CAHA, which is an alliance of health organisations. As such, all DEA members can feel pleased they have contributed to the publication of documents such as this.
We thank the Author Tim Flannery and The Conversation for permission to publish under creative commons
Following the release of Victorian climate impacts and opportunities yesterday, the Commission’s Chief Commissioner, Professor Tim Flannery, writes here about Victoria and its state of play.
We thank Roger Jones and the Conversation for permission to republish under creative commons.
A catchment threatened by salinity can’t be repaired by one or two landholders. Revegetation designed to lower watertables has its greatest ecological benefit where the plants are, but its net impact on salinity is small and spread over a much larger area. To achieve catchment-wide benefits, many good neighbours need to pay a small amount towards revegetation, with everyone contributing according to their capacity. Landcare – an idea invented in Australia and exported overseas – works exactly on that basis. It is supported by all major political parties, and many Landcare programs are funded by the taxpayer.
By David Shearman. We thank Climate Spectator for permission to republish. The tide of public opinion on climate change may be turning in the US with the impacts of massive drought, floods, storms and bushfires. A recent poll suggests so. Perhaps the removal of climate change from the realm of science to personal experience of physical and economic harm was always necessary for realisation.
It is estimated that global population reached seven billion in late 2011 or early 2012. As global population has doubled since the 1960s, per capita GDP has grown to more than ten times what it was then. The human impact has grown to such a scale that it has become a major geophysical force. It is not surprising that concerns about the number of people the Earth can support have re-emerged recently. Attempts to define an upper limit of the number of people that the Earth could support are inevitably subject to considerable uncertainty, however, the greatest concentration estimates falls between 8 and 16 billion people — a range we are fast approaching. While there are many ways we might reduce our per capita impact on the planet, the collective impact will always be multiplied by global population, making population an issue which cannot be ignored. Read the Full report
This article by Sturt Rosewarne and Linda Connor summarises the economic and occupational aspects of the industry. Our position is detailed in a briefing paper and in a policy paper We thank the authors and the Conversation for permission to publish under creative commons”e
Doctors for the Environment Australia made a submission to this Inquiry which was prepared by Dr Marion Carey. The Report is now available and its findings are discussed by Dr Eugenie Kayak
Doctors for the Environment Australia is publishing this article by Daniel Palmer because it raises some of the issues that we are increasingly likely to encounter in our advocacy for action on climate change. We thank the author and Climate Spectator for permission to publish
The World Health Organisation has concluded that “Diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer (sufficient evidence) and also noted a positive association (limited evidence) with an increased risk of bladder cancer” This is yet another compelling reason why subsidies for the use of diesel fuel should be stopped particularly in the resource industries. The article “Creating a stink about traffic pollution” reviews the dangers from traffic pollution and we thank the authors, Adrian Barnett, Joacim Rockov and Nicholas Graves and the Conversation for permission to republish the article Creating a stink about traffic pollution under creative commons…
This presentation was delivered to the ANU Emeritus Faculty on 21 March 2012. Please click on the links to both the powerpoint file and the accompanying text (as pdf).
There has been little mainstream medical interest in Rio 2012 despite the fact that improvements in world health outcomes are intimately related to the out comes.
In 2009 the Lancet stated “Climate change is the biggest health threat of the 21st century” This article is intended for the student members of Doctors for the Environment Australia but all doctors are life-long students, so we hope it will be used by all. It is the second of two Primers on climate change science and health impacts. The first article is here
The acceptance of risk is essential to facilitating action on climate change. The worldwide insurance industry measures risk to property and its premiums are soaring due to extreme weather events which they attribute partially to climate change. Climate risk is also developing a legal basis In Australia local governments in many coastal areas have accepted the report Climate change risks to Australia’s coasts and are taking action on planning and mitigation. Federal and state parliaments are involved in ideological warfare on climate change have clearly not accepted the degree of risk to the nation or they suffer from cognitive dissonance as detailed in the excellent article by Marion Carey.
The article Highway to Dystopia; time to wise up to the looming risks by John Crawford and co-authors was originally published the Conversation and we thank the authors and the Conversation for permission to republish under Creative Commons.This article further develops the concept of risk using a recent report from the World Economic Forum and should be read in conjunction with a DEA report to the Senate on complex systems. Now read on;-
Climate change is a complex problem but appears to many people as lacking immediate impact on their lives. Reconceptualising it as a health issue may allow for both better understanding of the issue and greater scope for changing behaviour.
DEA Editorial Comment; This article talks about DEA’s submission opposing this huge project. There seems to be inevitability about the approval of this project which is expected to impose more pollution on an already polluted city. An editorial in the Newcastle Herald on the same day indicates the economic and job opportunities provided. The conflict between these and health is discussed in the DEA article below.
This initiative was stimulated by the department of Climate Change issuing a response to Ian Plimer’s 101 climate questions. In late 2011, Professor Ian Plimer, a geology professor and expert mineralogist with no background in climate science, released his latest book How to get expelled from school: a guide to climate change for pupils, parents and punters.
This is an important topic because simple action on these short term pollutants reduces global temperature immediately. Their health impacts are therefore important. A year ago we provided an ABC on this topic and pointed out Australia’s role in this pollution. Black carbon is produced with the burning of forest floor waste, prescribed burns, the burning of agricultural waste and the use of diesel combustion engines. Methane pollution is a major mainly unaddressed problem in Australia from the fugitive emissions from coal seam gas wells and from the emissions by livestock. Methane emissions are increasing internationally.
The Club of Rome, is an international think-tank that focuses on stimulating debate on achieving a sustainable future. The Club is continuing its tradition of supporting work that raises fundamental questions and promotes far-sighted solutions. Its reports are important because they utilise both scientific and economic thinking. . Its mission is to undertake forward-looking analysis and assessment on ways forward to a happier, more resilient and sustainable planet. www.clubofrome.org.
Lead poisoning has to be added to the many health hazards arising from the more extreme floods occurring with climate change. The ABC Radio National program Lead Poisoning; a silent epidemic, describes how the wave of home renovation after the floods in Queensland resulted in lead paint stripped from houses increased exposure to lead in childhood. This is an excellent program with a list of references.
To the long list of infective conditions secondary to flooding it is apparent that we must add mobilisation of chemicals and heavy metals from the environment. The floods caused a washout of herbicide into coastal waters and the discharge of heavy metals from flooded coal mines into river catchments.
With only inverted commas signalling the spin, the news media have happily recycled the term ‘green tape’, the latest rhetorical gambit by those decrying environmental protections as unnecessarily delaying development. It’s a term that undercuts the rationale for hard won legislation, with a cynical ‘sleight of tongue’.
This article is based upon an important new report on The Psychological effects of global warming in the United States. The report will be put in the context of previous work in Australia including that by Doctors for the Environment Australia.
I suggest that the name David Suzuki will be known to all those truly interested in the future of the World. In a letter to friends and organisations he says
If you have any commitment to the future of humanity you will groan when you see the word sustainability. It must be the most corrupted word in the English language, a corruption of Orwellian proportions. When used to name a government department it immediately rings warning bells. In Victoria there is a Department of Sustainability and Environment which “leads the Victorian Government’s efforts to sustainably manage….. climate change.” This week it lead a demolish program.
This article from Bill McGuire professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. Summarises his recent book “Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes”, published by Oxford University Press
The Climate Commission launched an important Climate Change & Health report on November 2011. DEA endorsed the report which was co-authored by DEA Scientific Committee member Professor Tony McMichael. Also at the launch was DEA management committee member and GP Dr Ben Ticehurst
Enough evidence has emerged at the Senate Inquiry into coal seam gas to merit significant reform orchestrated by the Federal Government.
Mr Abbott visits coal mines to say “No to carbon tax”; the Prime Minister supports new coal mines; the Australian Coal Association director Ralph Hillman says the government’s proposed carbon tax would add to the costs of Australian coalminers, “while our competitors will bear no such burden”.
We need more politicians who will talk at public meetings about the damage to ecology–our life support systems. This is exactly what Kelvin Thomson MP is doing in his talk “The impact of population growth on wildlife” which is published below. In publishing this, with his permission, I make the point that we will publish articles from members of other parties if they fit within our policy framework.
Most people now know that climate change is a serious issue, and have some understanding of the effects that it will wreak. Few, however, are aware of the extraordinary impacts that climate change will have specifically on health.
Watch on YouTube.
As many of our medical colleagues are unaware of the health impacts of climate change DEA has developed a set of slides which you can use to present to your peers. This PowerPoint presentation covers basic climate science and the health impacts of climate change and uses a medical analogy to put the case for urgent action. (The download link is on the right of screen).
The ravages of asbestos induced lung disease are well known to the Australian community, but the problem continues throughout the world particularly in developing countries. This is a brief review of asbestos as a world problem. together with three key references.
In making representations to our colleagues on the need to mitigate climate change we should not delude ourselves that all will bow to the reasoning of science, nor to the tenets of natural justice. Both are often sullied by self interest and ideology. When asking a colleague to contribute to climate change education I was greeted with silence- so I resorted to “You have young children what about their future?” The response was “that’s their problem” It was my turn to be silent!
Published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing, the abstract is reproduced here.
Climate Change HEALTH is a new blog by Dubbo GP Dr Paul Roth covering news and views on climate, health and the environment. Launched early July 2009, there are already 31 posts covering topics like basic climate science, effects of global warming, and the health effects of climate change.
Early in 2008, Doctors for the Environment Australia wrote to all Federal parliamentarians about climate change. Because of the urgency of reducing greenhouse emissions we asked them to “Write to us yourself and tell us what you are doing personally (i.e. within your household) to address the problem of climate change. Let us know how you are showing leadership within your electorate and please send to us any messages you are using in your newsletters to constituents.
I was not at the 2020 summit, nor did I apply. Therefore my comments relate entirely to the written report, the submissions and the press comments of others who were there.
The World Health Day, celebrated on April 7 each year, creates awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organisation. For 2008 the World Health Organisation has selected the topic “protecting health from climate change” This submission to the Garnaut Committee will indicate why this topic is so important and will document from the medical and scientific literature the implications for health in Australia.
by Guy Pearse