23 June 2015
The government needs to immediately address the issue of climate change to protect health, urge leading doctors in their strongest message yet.
The call follows a ground-breaking report launched today by the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet which states that climate change is posing “an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health”.
Doctors for the Environment Australia, a health advocacy organisation of medical doctors that raises awareness of the link between health and the environment, says The Lancet report, despite its serious message, highlights that acting on climate change offers the biggest health opportunity of the 21st century.
DEA spokesperson Dr Sallie Forrest says, “Those actions which improve health are also effective at reducing the impacts of climate change – a real win: win. By reducing air pollution from burning fossil fuels, namely coal, oil and gas, we can reduce disease and death from heart and lung disease and some cancers. It’s estimated the health effects of air pollution from coal cost Australians $2.6 billion dollars per year.
“Also, designing our cities to encourage active transport, such as walking and cycling, and reduce polluting cars would help decrease rapidly escalating diseases related to physical inactivity such as heart disease, mental illness and diabetes.”
Dr Forrest adds, “The report’s finding that responding to climate change is no longer a technical, technological, or economic question but entirely a political one is particularly pertinent to the Australian situation. Our current bipartisan target of 5% emission reductions by 2020 is woefully inadequate and we need leadership from our politicians to protect and promote our health and the health of our children.
“Equally, government assistance for expansion of coal exports is flying in the face of evidence that we must leave at least 75% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid two degrees of warming, and ignores the air pollution health problems we are exporting to the world with our coal.”
The Lancet recommends that 2,200 coal power plants in the development pipeline overseas be phased out and transitioned to renewable sources to protect cardiovascular and respiratory health.
The report calls on doctors to play a vital role in tackling climate change.
“We have taken on issues that threaten public health before, such as asbestos and tobacco use,” says Dr Forrest. “It’s important that we also speak out about the health hazards that climate change will bring to our patients and communities.”
The report is a follow up to the 2009 report which said, “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”.
This latest report announces a new “Countdown to 2030” project to track progress over the next 15 years on the implementation of a range of health and climate policies internationally.
The report represents a comprehensive, state-of the art review of the evidence, and a new analysis of the climate change policy responses from a health lens. There are 15 cities across the world launching the report, with flagship events in London, New York and Beijing.
Full report can ve viewed HERE.
Dr Sallie Forrest, 0434 049 715
Media Officer, Carmela Ferraro, 04107 03074
For more information visit www.dea.org.au
DEA is supported by a scientific committee consisting of:
Professor Stephen Boyden AM; Professor Peter Doherty AC, FRS, FAA; Professor Bob Douglas AO; Professor Dave Griggs; Professor Michael Kidd AM; Professor David de Kretser AC; Professor Steve Leeder AO; Professor Ian Lowe AO; Professor Robyn McDermott; Professor Peter Newman; Sir Gustav Nossal, AC, CBE, FAA, FRS; Professor Hugh Possingham; Professor Lawrie Powell AC; Professor Fiona Stanley AC; Dr Rosemary Stanton OAM; Norman Swan; Professor David Yencken AO