Australia’s deputy prime minister Michael McCormack told DEA member and GP, Dr Trudi Beck, who is a constituent in Wagga Wagga, NSW, that he disputed evidence of global warming because historical weather measurements might not be accurate. Dr Beck also reported that Mr McCormack said to her at a scheduled meeting in his electorate office that she should abandon her attendance at weekly picnic protests outside his office and “do something useful like volunteer for Meals on Wheels instead”.
In about eighteen months’ time, I’ll finish my medical degree and will begin my first day of work as a doctor. Many of the things that make me nervous about that prospect have been haunting medical students for decades: what if I fall asleep in the tea room on a night shift and miss an urgent page? What if I accidentally read a patient’s x-ray backwards? What if my boss yells at me the first time I have to wake her up at 3am to ask about a patient? But there’s a whole set of anxieties about my future career that I suspect most of my predecessors never even contemplated.
In Australia, Queensland will be damaged most from climate change progression and it is clearly illogical for Queensland to promote its own demise. We recommend that climate change impacts from the development of this mine be the prime consideration in its assessment. Secondary considerations will be water, need for metallurgical coal, biodiversity of the entire region and possible economic benefit.
DEA and environmental groups have called for greater transparency about the potential health impacts on local communities from Australia's largest onshore liquified natural gas (LNG) plant, Chevron's Wheatstone project. Dr George Crisp said he is concerned about the proximity of the plant to the tiny town of Onslow in the Pilbara. Emissions could contain a toxic mixture of hydrocarbons, gases, oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and carbon monoxide, which are all harmful to human health, even at very low concentrations.
Recently, a ten-year-old block of 131 flats in Sydney, evacuated some weeks ago because of structural cracks, became the subject of an engineer’s report which said it was moving in a ‘downward motion’. The UK is well aware of such failures of regulation and government with the Grenfell Tower fire cladding. They epitomise the increasingly inept governance in both nations. Nevertheless, writes Dr David Shearman, despite the three years of Brexit chaos in the UK, matched by three years of climate policy chaos in Australia which remains the hallmark of the re-elected Government, the similarity ends there.
Dr Ben Ewald spoke to NBN News about the harms to large numbers of people in Newcastle and beyond who are exposed to toxic pollution from Vales Point, Eraring and Mt Piper coal-fired power stations. The interview comes after the Nature Conservation Council announced it was mounting a court case against the NSW EPA. The conservation group is arguing the renewal of pollution licences for these three power stations, which are operating with out-of-date technology and below international pollution standards, is putting people's health at risk.
Australia’s air pollution standards, known as National Environment Protection Measures (NEPM), were set in 1998 and are long overdue for revision. These standards are intended to protect public health, but they have not kept up with new research on the health impacts of air pollution. Health effects occur at lower concentrations than previously thought. Many foreign jurisdictions review their air standards every five or ten years and have progressively lowered permissible levels over time. The particle standards were updated in 2015, and the current review is for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone. These three pollutants are quick acting respiratory irritants, but NO2 and possibly ozone also have long term effects.
DEA has made a submission on the Victorian Government’s review of its Regional Forestry Agreements (RFA). RFA’s are agreements between State and Federal governments which enable logging to occur without the oversight of national environmental protections. They were written some 20 years ago and the 5 agreements which cover Victoria are in the process of expiring.
The Victorian Government appointed an Independent Expert Panel to advise on 5-yearly sector pledges on emission reduction targets (ERTs) up to 2030, under provisions of the Climate Change Act 2017. DEA believes that the Panel’s advice of 32-39% by 2025 and 40-60% by 2030 is sound but only if the upper level of each target is the ultimate aim. It is only these upper limits which would enable Victoria to achieve its legislated target of net-zero emissions by 2050 without placing an unfair burden on either the current or future generations.
For 30 or more years, science has modelled the consequences of steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions and their expected trajectories of warming have been correct — as a result, current predictions have a high degree of confidence. This article by Dr David Shearman argues practical reforms are needed if we are to fulfil our obligations under the Paris Agreement to address the climate crisis.
Whitehaven Coal’s proposed open-cut metallurgical coal mine, the Winchester South Coal Project in the Bowen Basin, Queensland, has been referred to the Federal Government in three separate applications for the mine site and access road, the water supply pipeline and the electricity transmission line. It is essential that the government now ensures a full Environmental Impact Assessment for every new development project which releases greenhouse gas emissions, using independent consensus science. This is critical, as climate disruption is a clear threat to our health and to the economic system which underpins all our human endeavours, and indeed to our civilisation. Read DEA's submission HERE.
The re-election of the Coalition Government was followed by claims of a mandate for fast tracking approvals of the controversial Adani mine, writes Dr David King. Only weeks after the Federal Election, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the granting of the two final State Government approvals — groundwater management and the black-throated finch protection plan. The reality of voting intentions is more complex than a single issue and often swayed by playing to genuine concerns or fears.
Declaring a climate emergency is about reassurance, not panic, writes Dr Kris Barnden. In medicine, we rightly screen for threats to patients' lives, and once these are suspected we initiate a rapid, comprehensive, team-based, evidence-based response. Declaring a climate emergency is about taking effective action to address the mounting threats to the health and wellbeing of billions of people, our way of life and economy. It's also about making a strong statement of political will which nearly 600 jurisdictions around the world have taken.
DEA has today written to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urging her to not proceed with Adani's Carmichael mine project. It is inconceivable to us as an organisation of doctors and medical students that this project should ever see the light of day given it will have significant impacts on public health and wellbeing. Read the letter in full HERE.
The NT gas development which will result in GHG emissions many times greater than those of the Adani mine will commence in the next few months. DEA has made this submission to the Environmental Management Plan on the Kyalla drilling proposal. The "achievements" of these developments which are strongly supported by the NT governments and by the Federal Coalition and Labor will be to make international emissions difficult to contain and a 2°C rise will be likely; Australia with NT and WA development will be the world’s largest gas exporter.
With mounting evidence of the disastrous health effects of poor air quality, Australians deserve better than the Coalition's failed fuel policy, writes Dr Graeme McLeay. News of a Spanish study, which has found that boys who are exposed to pollution in the womb and childhood, may have poorer cognitive and memory skills adds to the growing list of harms associated with air pollution, especially for vulnerable people, such as children.
The recent federal election gave all Australians of voting age an opportunity to have a say on issues that are most important to them. Dr Sujata Allan, who wrote this powerful article ahead of the election, said that as a doctor who has seen first hand the detrimental ways in which climate change harms our health, her focus would be action on climate change - the biggest public health threat of our times.
Along with many of you, no doubt, DEA has spent the last several days reflecting on the return of a Coalition Government that has not distinguished itself as being sufficiently aware or concerned about the enormous environmental, health and economic consequences of worsening global warming and environmental degradation. The stakes, though, have perhaps never been higher for swift and effective action nationally and globally to protect climates, environments and populations.
Climate change is the greatest threat that humanity has ever had to face, and it is children who will pay the biggest price with their health.
The effects on our health and wellbeing are unequivocal and key health organisations around the world, including the World Health Organization, have declared global warming a public health emergency.
In a submission to NOPSEMA, Doctors for the Environment Australia have concluded on health grounds that the proposal should not be approved. The risk from drilling, though small, cannot be avoided, and the effect on the sustainability of the Bight from a major spill far outweighs any transitory economic benefits. Furthermore, impacts on climate change from expanded oil production are unacceptable.
Award-winning rapper and DEA member Dr Nat Harris has released a new video the Call Out, which you can view here. It's spare and powerful lyrics capture nature’s rapid decline and the need for urgent action to turn the climate crisis around. The video launch comes ahead of Saturday’s federal election, which has attracted a record number of young Australians to enrol.
Health professionals are seeing the impact of a perfect storm threatening the health of some of Australia’s most disadvantaged communities. Climate change is exacerbating the social and economic inequalities that already contribute to profound health inequities.
It is important for the development of the vital renewable energy industry that appropriate developments proceed in order to build the skill base and employment opportunities for people working in the renewable energy industry in order to improve and accelerate the rollout of these projects over the coming decade.
This federal election is critical to our future, and more so for our children. Today DEA published an Open Letter to the leaders of our major parties in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age with an urgent call to stop playing games with our children's health and take strong action on climate change. Major medical and health organisations as well as more than 2000 health practitioners are endorsing our campaign. DEA members will today deliver their signatures to Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten.
In an article in NewsGP, Dr Tim Senior, a GP with a special interest in environmental issues believes the election provides a key opportunity for practitioners to advocate on climate change. DEA's No Time for Games pledge asks for strong action on climate change from both sides of politics. ‘The damage done today is the environment our children have no choice but to grow up in.'
Food Security in a Changing Climate: This video is a reminder of the threat posed to our climate, our water, our oceans and our agriculture by oil and gas exploration and production. In the video Anne Daw, agricultural advocate and member of the Round Table on Oil and Gas SA, Anne Poelina, Nyikina Traditional Custodian and Master of Tropical Medicine Notre Dame University, DEA's Graeme McLeay, and Peter Owen, Wilderness Society SA Director point to the impacts of fossil fuels on food security in our region.
"Everywhere I go, I see headlines saying that the 2019 federal election is the 'Climate Change Election'.
Ordinary citizens, from school children to retirees, who see the stark reality of a climate-altered future, are taking to the streets crying out for action and leadership", says Dr Lucy Watt, in a new article in AusDoc.
"As a doctor who works in emergency medicine, I support this rallying cry."
DEA has provided a submission to the Queensland government opposing a water licence for the Acland mine extension. This continues the saga of pollution and harm to local inhabitants over the past decade. Over that time, DEA has made two submissions and attended the Land Court case as expert witness . Yet the company and the Queensland government are still intent on approval. This story provides every reason why New Environmental Laws are needed in Australia. Read the submission here.
The state of SA has decided that it will try and perform better than Queensland in establishing an underground coal gasification (UCG) enterprise. They need to be reminded that the process has ended in disaster for the environment and workers in about half of all UCG developments nationally and internationally. There has never been a health impact assessment for any UCG development.
DEA has joined the Wilderness Society campaign to stop drilling for oil in the pristine waters of our Great Australian Bight. We have made a submission on the Stromlo-1 Exploration Drilling Programme to NOPSEMA with the recommendation that the proposal should not be approved. The risk from drilling, though small, cannot be avoided, and the outcome on the sustainability of the Bight from a major spill far outweigh any transitory economic benefits. Furthermore, impacts on climate change from expanded oil production are unacceptable.
Australia is fortunate to have a diverse natural environment and a vibrant healthy community with good access to healthcare. However, air pollution, drought, extreme weather and bushfires threaten our health and livelihood. At the 2019 Federal election we call for bold measures to protect and promote health.
Download the 2-page version here "DEA Prescription 2-page flyer.pdf"
Download the 3-page version here "DEA Prescription 3-pages including references.pdf"
As a result of the failure of its carbon capture and storage project, the Gorgon plant has been venting toxic chemicals including BTEX chemicals and mercury directly into the atmosphere. Dr George Crisp of Doctors for the Environment expressed serious concerns by the lack of environmental monitoring and regulation at Chevron’s Gorgon LNG facility saying, “It is not acceptable to leave it to Chevron to decide whether people were at risk. It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the health of West Australians, not Chevron." DEA's oil and gas policy can be found here.
Doctors for the Environment Australia is among a wide-ranging international coalition of medical and healthcare organisations that have signed A Call for Clinicians to Act on Planetary Health, which is published today in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. The call warns of the severe impacts of accelerating global environmental change on our health and the dire need to address the causes. It also seeks to galvanise doctors, nurses and other clinicians to work with their patients on lifestyle modifications that would benefit both planetary health and individual health.
In an article in MJA's Insight, Kingsley Faulkner says the really worrying aspect of the climate events over the past summer was that this was just the beginning. “These changes are going to get worse,” he said. “We need Federal leadership — it’s been appallingly lacking to-date. We need good state leadership to set in place emergency preparedness plans,” he said. “When heatwaves or major floods happen, they can overwhelm local emergency departments, as happened in Queensland recently with the devastating cyclones and floods.”
DEA is a signatory to an Open Letter from leading Australian organisations calling for all candidates in the upcoming federal election to address with speed and urgency the detrimental effects of climate change on public health. Climate change poses an unprecedented threat to the health of people in Australia and across the world. The full text of the letter can be read here.
Indian billionaire Gautam Adani's proposed coal mine if it's allowed to proceed will add tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere and accelerate climate change. DEA has written a letter of support to the Stop Adani Convoy of concerned Australians which has been organised by the Bob Brown Foundation.
The mine at Moolarben has previously been approved to mine 18 million tonnes per year of production coal during the period until 2038. The original approval was granted in 2007, however, since that time climate change induced drought and altered fire regimens have become much more severe, and the urgency of taking swift action to reduce atmospheric carbon emissions is greater. This has been recognised in international treaties like the Paris accord, and in local legal judgements such as Gloucester Resources Ltd vs Minister for Planning 2019. What was assessed as being in the community interest in 2007 may no longer be in the community interest in 2019. The medical community is increasingly concerned by mortality during heat waves, food insecurity due to crop failures, deaths due to extreme weather events, and the spread of tropical diseases to temperate zones.
An independent study of coal power’s health impacts by epidemiologist and researcher Dr Benjamin Ewald, stated 279 deaths occur in New South Wales alone annually from coal - related air pollution. This year’s National Pollutant Inventory report results further strengthen the case for getting tough on air pollution.
Despite federal Labor's announcement to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030, WA's state Labor government is promoting the development of massive new LNG projects in the north of the state. DEA has recently released a report and made statements protesting expanding off shore gas developments, calling climate change "the biggest threat to health in human history." "Continued expansion of this industry without consideration of its emissions cannot continue," said DEA's Dr Richard Yin.
The conflicted beauty of Tasmania’s Tarkine, takayna in the Tasmanian Aboriginal palawa kani language, is unknown to most Australians.
The Tasmanian government is keeping its disgraceful degradation of world heritage forests out of national attention, losing precious tourism investment in exchange for a few votes, while it devalues this great asset.
Tasmanian DEA members Rohan Church and Darren Briggs have been planning for years to take a group of us to this extraordinary place to learn of the beauty and outrage. The 2019 DEA conference in Hobart brought us together and provided a chance to take a group out. Sixteen people began their Tarkine adventure on 8th April 2019 after the Hobart iDEA19 conference.
WA doctors have today welcomed the Sustainable Health Review report as a first step in addressing climate change as a major health threat, and creating a health system that focuses more on prevention than cure. Read more here.
Doctors for the Environment Australia were honoured to welcome our colleagues, other health professionals, climate experts, and guests at this year's hugely successful iDEA19 conference in nipaluna/Hobart on 5 -7 April. We came together to address the biggest challenge and opportunity facing humanity today— the impacts of climate change on our health. A major highlight of the conference was the declaration of a climate emergency which sparked national and international interest.
Doctors for the Environment Australia applauds the announcement by the ALP to develop Australia’s first National Strategy on Climate Change and Health. This strategy recognises that any further delay in addressing climate change by any new Federal Government is not tenable.
Doctors from across the country will today gather in Hobart to declare a Climate Emergency. They will also call on Australia’s federal and state governments and councils to adequately respond to the climate chaos we are experiencing and which will accelerate if no action is taken. The medical doctors, from various specialisations, will state that anything less on the part of governments amounts to negligence.
Emissions measured from Queensland government owned coal-fired power station doubled in the year after continuous emission monitoring was installed. Previously, emissions were estimated as required under the national pollutant reporting scheme. In one year, measurements jumped from 18 to 36 million kg in oxides of nitrogen emissions. DEA and EJA are calling for an urgent overhaul of pollution monitoring and controls.
Epidemiologist and Doctors for the Environment spokesman Ben Ewald said the health burden from the turbine upgrade was unclear. "If they generate more power from the same coal we will have the same pollution burden... but if they are increasing the plant's power capacity by 40MW why would they not increase power output?," he said. Increased power output means more emissions.
DEA commends the Australian Medical Association’s call for the Australian Government to establish an Australian Sustainable Development Unit (SDU), based on the successful model used in England’s National Health Service (NHS). The AMA’s recent release of a nine-page document on healthcare environmental sustainability aims to make hospitals and health services more environmentally sustainable.
DEA is one of many health and medical organisations calling for urgent action to mitigate climate change. In Australia, these include the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian Medical Association (AMA). Internationally, they include the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the pre-eminent medical journal, The Lancet. Collectively these groups have highlighted the devastating impact a warming climate will have on human health.
In an article by Medical Republic, DEA's Dr David King talks about the increasing problems of treating patients in our changing climate. But addressing climate change has many public health benefits - from cleaning up air pollution to improving our diets. The AMA, AMSA, DEA, GPs and and other medical organisations are calling for action on climate change to safeguard and improve out health.
Writing in an op-ed for Renew Economy, David Shearman and Melissa Haswell warn that gas is anything but a 'clean and safe' bridging fuel, and that there is wide evidence of the gas industry's damaging effects on health. Read their latest comprehensive review of the literature,
and the full article with hyperlinks in Renew Economy, here.
In an op-ed published in The Conversation, David Shearman and Melissa Haswell write that Australia aspires to become the world’s largest exporter of gas. But the methane that escapes is a much more potent short-term greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And there are significant local and regional risks to health and well-being associated with unconventional gas mining. Their comprehensive review examines the current state of the evidence.
A new comprehensive review has shown that gas as a safe transition fuel is a dangerous myth, and that in reality this fossil fuel – methane gas - is imperilling the health of Australians. Doctors for the Environment Australia is calling on governments to stop new gas expansions and to increase monitoring, regulation and management of existing wells.
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."
Doctors will today take to the streets in support of the anticipated thousands of Australian school students who will miss classes to call for urgent action on climate change. Medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia says climate change is the biggest risk to public health in human history and children, who are especially vulnerable, have good reason to speak out.
Many people with unhealthy lifestyle habits make changes only after a wake-up call, a significant health event that brings home to them how precious life is, writes Dr Kris Barnden. The environmental catastrophes that have visited Tasmania and the rest of Australia this summer are our wake-up call.
"Project Caesar", Glencore’s multi-million-dollar coal campaign, sought to disseminate information that would build community, industrial and political pressure to continue to support coal while denigrating expansion of renewables. It is imperative that major polluters such as Glencore get serious about their responsibilities towards reducing their contributions to human-caused climate change.
More heat records are tumbling in SE Queensland this week, with prolonged heat waves becoming the new normal for the area. DEA's Dr David King said that “The predictions from the CSIRO are that over the next 50 years we’re going to have two to three times as many extreme heatwaves around Australia” As well as being dangerous, heatwaves impact our productivity.
Australian school children will skip school this Friday as part of a global movement of young people taking to the streets to demand action on climate change. Dr Richard Yin says, "As a doctor and a father, I’ll be there supporting them." The kids are right – 25 years of climate inaction has brought us to the brink of a climate abyss.
How do we reduce diet related disease, improve health and feed a global population of 10 billion by 2050 without damaging our planet? The Lancet-EAT commission’s recent launch of “Food in the Anthropocene” sets scientific targets to address this challenging question. It concludes that food could be “the single strongest lever to optimise human health and environmental sustainability on Earth”. However, to achieve this, “a radical transformation of the global food system is urgently required”.
Chinese investors have proposed a plan for the stations on Hunter Economic Zone land. DEA's Dr John Van Der Kallen comments that "It's ludicrous to think anyone's contemplating it while the world faces a climate change emergency. Are they on another planet? It's the wrong proposal at the wrong place and the wrong time," he said. Read the full article here.
Doctors have today dismissed claims by the WA Government and peak industry that gas is a transition fuel, following the welcome announcements by the WA EPA for tighter regulations on pollution from the State’s large greenhouse gas emitters.
DEA applauds the children's event, due to take place on 15 March, which will see students skip school to demand strong action on climate change. GP and DEA's Honorary Secretary Dr Richard Yin describes climate change as the ‘biggest risk to public health in human history’. He told NewsGP that it is inspiring to see the next generation of young people take control of their future, as the seriousness of the current situation demands that health advocates take action on climate change ‘for the sake of our children’.
The Lancet has described tackling climate change as the ‘greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.’ The upcoming NSW election is one of those opportunities to improve our health, but we need to vote for politicians who will take climate change seriously. Tackling climate change will involve moving rapidly to renewable energy.
DEA's Queensland Chair Dr Beau Frigault writes about the deadly disease meliodosos that has emerged after the record-breaking monsoon in north Queensland. One person has died from melioidosis since the flood, and a further nine people remain in hospital, some of whom are in intensive care. In a city that would normally see a handful of cases a year, this is a significant increase. There may be many more cases of melioidosis to come, as symptoms can show up two to four weeks after exposure. While Queensland has a record of severe weather, yet another "once-in-a-century" event shows how climate change is wreaking havoc on our communities.
DEA recommends that the New South Wales Government Independent Planning Commission oppose the United Wambo Open Cut Coal Mine project on the grounds of negative health effects of climate change, air pollution, social impacts, water quality and environmental risk as well as the economic damage to the infrastructure of Australia and not least to the lives of individual Australians.
Dr John Iser writes in Independent Australia about the Black Saturday bushfires.
In the ten years since the bushfires of 2009, many improvements have happened in fire prevention and management. However the fundamental major contributing factors to bushfires - heatwaves combined with drought as a consequence of climate change - have been given only lip-service by many in government.
DEA has released new air pollution report this week, widely reported in the media. The study has shown that air pollution is actually worsening in parts of Sydney and NSW, despite government assurances that they take emissions regulations seriously. Following the release of the report which he authored Dr Ben Ewald writes – ‘Air quality is worse than ever in NSW and is "a steady drag" on the health of much of the population.’ Fine particles carry the greatest health burden, proven to cause death, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, type two diabetes and low birth weight for babies, and they are suspected of causing dementia. Read more...
In a stunning landmark decision, this week the NSW Land and Environment Court recognised the scientific evidence for climate change and the urgent need to reduce emissions. For this reason, and for the negative impacts on the local community, the court dismissed the appeal and ruled against the opening of a new coal mine at Rocky Hill.
A Labor government in NSW has promised to review the emissions standards of all NSW's coal-fired power stations, after their current licences have been renewed by the NSW EPA without significant change. DEA's Dr Ben Ewald said "The decision makers in the EPA are ignoring compelling health reasons to clean up power station air pollution. Modern pollution controls are required on vehicles, so why not power stations?"
An independent study of coal power’s health impacts by epidemiologist and researcher Dr Benjamin Ewald published last year stated 279 deaths occur in New South Wales alone annually from related air pollution. In an article from SolarQuotes, this year's NPI report strengthens the case for getting tough on air pollution.
Australia has had it's hottest month on record - the mean average temperature was greater 30 degrees, and records are tumbling. DEA's Dr John van der Kallen interviewed by the ABC about the health impacts of climate change and talks about the increase in frequency of these events going into the future.
Doctors call for an end to further extensions of existing coalmines or new mines, such as the Galilee Basin, after a landmark ruling in the NSW Land and Environment Court firmly rejected the Rocky Hill open cut coalmine proposal.
A comprehensive new report released today by Doctors for the Environment Australia shows NSW’s air quality deteriorated markedly in 2018, overshooting the national standards several times and putting the health of people at risk, especially in parts of Sydney and in the Hunter.
A comprehensive new report released today by Doctors for the Environment Australia shows NSW’s air quality deteriorated markedly in 2018, overshooting the national standards several times and putting the health of people at risk, especially in parts of Sydney and in the Hunter.
DEA's Dr David Shearman and Prof. Melissa Haswell write that while state governments are embracing our urgent need for renewable energy transitions, regulations for large housing developments are lagging behind, facing mandated connections to gas infrastructure within their contracts. Mandatory gas connections are anti-choice, anti-competitive and contrary to combatting climate change.
"Tasmania’s usually pristine air is clouded with bushfire smoke", write DEA doctors Anna Johnston and Zoe Ling. Doctors around the state are treating significant health problems exacerbated by toxic bushfire fumes – asthma, heart attacks, strokes, premature births and poor diabetes control. Current government policies are woefully inadequate in limiting warming. The situation will only get worse without effective action.
While the rich get richer, not only do the poor get poorer but the environment continues to suffer, writes Dr David Shearman.
DEA is pleased to comment as a ‘relevant health organisation’ on the operation of the South Australian Public Health Act 2011. DEA notes that the review is intended to consider if, in the first 5 years since commencement of the Act, the objects have been achieved, including if the powers, structures and tools established under the Act have been effective in providing the framework to achieve the objectives in promoting, preserving and protecting the public health of South Australians.
As a GP working in western Sydney, where temperatures can be hotter than the rest of the city, Dr Sujata Allan sees how heat affects vulnerable people every day. She writes that doctors are doing everything they can to ensure patients stay safe in extreme heat, but they cannot in good faith dispense short-term health tips for heatwaves without an urgent plea to tackle climate change. "The fact that this much-needed climate leadership is glaringly absent makes me sick," says Dr Allan.
Nutritionist and dietitian Dr Rosemary Stanton, who is part of DEA's Scientific Advisory Committee, and DEA member Dr Kris Barnden, examine the results of a recent major scientific report by The Lancet-EAT commission. The three-year study calls for transformative change in how we grow our food and what we eat to improve health, save the planet from further damage to our environment and feed an anticipated 10 billion people by 2050.
The Queensland government is considering a new bill - the Mineral Resources (Galilee Basin) Amendment Bill 2018 - that would effectively stop all coal mining in the Galilee Basin. DEA has provided a submission to the parliamentary committee outlining the compelling reasons the Mineral Bill should be approved. The risks to water security, ecosystems and air pollution are cause enough, but the overarching concern are the enormous health, economic, security and environmental costs of an inadequate response to global warming. The report’s due date is 30th April 2019.
Many states this week announced health warnings about the ongoing heatwave, which has seen record-breaking temperatures in various parts of Australia. DEA member Dr Sujata Allan who works as a GP in western Sydney, which can have maximum temperatures that are as much as 10C higher than in coastal areas, was interviewed by the Guardian about the impact a changing climate can have on human health.
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 CO 2 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%.
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 01-19
Forests and native vegetation like grasslands, wetlands and woodlands are vital to our wellbeing yet in Australia we are currently seeing an explosion in land clearing. This has wide ranging and harmful implications for human health.
Forests and native vegetation like grasslands, wetlands and woodlands support our health and the environment in which we live. From purifying our air and water to providing food, medicines and places of psychological restoration.
"Our health care sector contributes a hefty 7% to Australia's carbon footprint. But DEA doctors Richard Yin and George Crisp have taken steps to change that in their Perth practice. View the full article from the Medical Observer here."
Further expansion of coal mining is incompatible with action to mitigate climate change . The Australian Government’s consideration of coal-mining in the Galilee Basin highlights the serious disconnect between genuine government commitment to emissions reduction policies, both domestically and as a signatory to the Paris agreement and the approval of new coal mining projects.
DEA’s overarching concern is clear evidence of the substantial and rising greenhouse gas footprint of Australia’s expanding gas and oil industry that threatens efforts to urgently reduce emissions and mitigate global warming. Currently Australia is the second largest LNP exporter in the world and expected to be the largest exporter by 2019.
Containment of gas development is vital if national and international greenhouse emissions are to be reduced quickly to address accelerating climate change. It is inappropriate to use subsidies for a pipeline which would enable gas production to be increased. Derogation is effectively a subsidy for the pipeline paid for by consumers. Onshore gas development has an increasing number of concerning medical impacts which will need costly health and environmental monitoring and will further detract from the economic viability of the project at a time when renewable energy development is cheaper and non harmful.
The State of the Environment Report released Thursday 20th December by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology emphasises again that climate change is happening now and Australia is vulnerable to it. Key findings are that warming of 1°C has occured since 1910, heatwaves are happening over land and sea, rainfall and streamflows are declining across much of southern Australia, sea levels are rising, and the bushfire season is longer.....
The 2018 State of the Climate report again highlights the risks to our planet our health and our well-being. DEA's Colin Butler explains that when we've overdosed on fossil fuels "As with a real vaccine, which requires a tiny dose of something potentially harmful we seem to need a dose of poison (in this case fear) before we act. We also need hope...." View the full article here
DEA Members Drs Peter Tait, Sujata Allan & Anthea Katelaris have published a paper in the Australian Journal Of General Practice aiming to introduce GPs to heat-related morbidity and mortality.
As health professionals, we have an expected overriding duty of care to do no harm and advocate for action to protect health and humanity. Yet few of us consider the health consequences associated with the significant ecological footprint, including greenhouse gas emissions, of our workplaces.
Climate denial is dangerous - it's delaying our urgent need for emissions reduction. Climate policy must be guided by scientific expert opinion and removed from political chicanery by the implementation of new environmental laws which have application to health.
Paediatrician and DEA member, Dr Karen Kiang and Professor David Isaacs write that without urgently reducing emissions, climate change threatens the the very foundations of children’s health. We are already seeing the health impacts of a warming planet, and Australia is one of the most climate vulnerable countries of the developed world.
From Prof. Fiona Stanley and Dr George Crisp an urgent reminder that it’s children who will suffer most if we fail to take effective action to reduce emissions. Children are especially vulnerable to the health impacts of a warming climate. As doctors, we have a role and responsibility to speak out and advocate for their future health and security.
Climate change is the greatest threat to human health in the current century, with our children living in a world of rising temperatures and increasing extreme weather events. Children are especially vulnerable and face growing threats from communicable diseases (diarrhoea, vector-borne diseases) and non-communicable diseases (asthma, malnutrition), injuries, and mental health impacts because of the changing climate and related extreme weather events.
Dr Ben Ewald, DEA member, GP and epidemiologist has written a report for Environmental Justice Australia on the annual health burden from exposure to fine particle pollution from the five coal fired power stations in NSW.
Dr Kathleen Wild represented DEA at the recent Independent Planning Commission meeting in Mudgee regarding the Bylong Coalmine proposal. It was the last opportunity for the community to try and stop the “green fields” proposal. There were over 60 presentations flanked by a heavy police presence. Kathleen did an excellent job outlining the importance of keeping coal in the ground to reduce carbon emissions.
DEA Chair, Professor Kingsley Faulkner spoke Wednesday 21st November to a conference of Australian and New Zealand emergency doctors, issuing "an impassioned call to arms to ED doctors on the moral and ethical imperative of climate change, an issue with significant implications for their work". He spoke of the wide ranging health effects and the urgency for action on climate change.
"A new report by the Australian Conservation Foundation finds 90% of the burden of air pollution falls on low and middle income households, while wealthier Australians experience only a fraction of annual national emissions. Of the five most polluted postal areas, coal-fired power stations are the largest emitters in three, while mining operations create the most in the other two. The most polluted urban areas are often located on the fringes of major population centres, including the Port of Brisbane, Altona in Melbourne, Botany Bay and Port Adelaide".
DEA member Kathleen Wild spoke at the NSW Independent Planning Commission on why the proposed Bylong Valley coal mine should not go ahead. She explains why in an article published in the Newcastle Herald Monday November 19th.
A new report out today by Honorary Associate Professor, NSW, Mark Diesendorf, published by the Australia Institute is a road map to a 100% renewable electricity system, essential if Australia is to play its part in limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.
DEA SA Committee member, Leanne Nguyen, caught up with Dr Bethell to talk to her about health impacts relating to increased dust storms events in the region after the closure of Port Augusta’s two coal-powered stations and what has motivated her to take-action as a medical professional.
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.
Australia has significant pollution levels, and needs to phase out coal and to reform vehicle emissions controls, following the release of a WHO report that highlighted the terrible impacts of air pollution, particularly on children. DEA's Dr Graeme McLeay told The Driven, that despite the urgency, the ministerial forum on electric vehicles in 2015 has so far lead to “zero action”, and added that something must be done, and soon.
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.
Local residents in Newcastle have for years been complaining about air quality from diesel vehicles and locomotives, domestic wood heating, and coal fired power stations even though these are 30 to 95 kilometres away. Dr Ben Ewald writes that the expansion of air pollution monitoring in Newcastle, with three new sites established at Mayfield, Carrington and Stockton four years ago, reveals disturbing results.
Natural gas (primarily methane) has a reputation for being clean and “good” for the climate because burning gas for cooking, heating and power emits fewer pollutants compared with burning coal-- but it is the process of obtaining the gas that creates major health and environmental concerns, writes Professor Melissa Haswell.
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.
DEA member and public health researcher, Professor Melissa Haswell, will discuss the evidence linking shale gas mining or fracking to environmental damage, worsening climate change and potential impacts on human health at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians annual scientific meeting in the NT in October. Also Professor Haswell will urge the NT Government to develop alternatives to fracking that won’t compromise the health of NT communities.
The public health risks of unconventional gas mining of natural gas from underground shale deposits (often referred to as ‘fracking’), will be examined by Professor Melissa Haswell, a public health researcher and member of Doctors for the Environment Australia, at the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) Annual Scientific Meeting in the Northern Territory in October.
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 -->
In Australia, air pollution kills more people than the annual road toll, yet, we are buying more and more diesel cars. In many European cities, diesel is banned, so why is Australia with its highly urbanised population so slow to act, especially given the potentially dire health implications? Dr Graeme McLeay is a guest on Phillip Adams' show, Late Night Live. Read more-->
Doctors for the Environment Australia is pleased to comment on this Enquiry for the extinction crisis reflects the rapid decline in biodiversity and ecological services, nationally and internationally, with grave implications for many aspects of human health and survival.
There are currently nearly 500 threatened faunal species and our current environment laws, especially the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC), are woefully inadequate.
A lack of biodiversity in faunal species impacts human health by threatening our food and water sources, current and potential medicines and crucial cultural and psychological wellsprings.
Download DEA's submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications - Australia’s faunal extinction crisis.
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—>
In the Hunter region of NSW the community continues to be exposed to pollution from coal fired power stations and coal mines. In the Upper Hunter there have been numerous air quality alerts which the government continues to ignore. Local GPs continue to be busy dealing with the health impacts such as exacerbations in asthma and sinusitis. Locals have their houses shaken by nearby mine blasts with the risk of exposure to blast fume. They have to make sure they hang their washing out on calm days or their clean clothes become covered by dust. But of course, none of this seems to matter when coal mining and “cheap” electricity is at stake!
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—>
Poor air quality is shortening the average life expectancy, a new international study published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters has found. It calculated an Australian with a life expectancy of 82.4 years in 2016 would lose 0.178 years from their life as a result of air pollution. Doctors for the Environment Australia has a long history of advocating for national reporting standards to protect health. Read more-->
On 15-16th August 2018 DEA members from NSW (Dr John Van Der Kallen and Dr Helen Redmond) and Qld (Dr Geralyn McCarron and Professor Melissa Haswell) travelled to the north-west inland town of Narrabri to attend and speak at a Coal Seam Gas and Public Health Conference organised and chaired by North West Protection Advocacy. Narrabri Shire is the site of the Narrabri Gas Project of Santos, an 850 well coal seam gas field in the final stages of approval. Helen, Geralyn and Melissa all spoke at the conference, together with Shay Dougall and Dr Methuen Morgan. The audience included local townsfolk, farmers from surrounding regions and members of the Kamilaroi people.
In Australia, it is estimated that urban air pollution contributes to approximately 3,000 deaths annually – more than double the deaths of the national road toll. As part of its advocacy for cleaner air, DEA has made a number of recommendations in a submission to a review of the National Pollution Inventory (NPI). 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 -->
Doctors for the Environment Australia has told a Federal 20-year review of the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI), which is considering submissions for a report to Australia’s environment ministers, that fireworks should be included for the first time. 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 -->
A flawed rehabilitation of an ash dam has blown coal dust across Port Augusta (SA) and its 14,000 residents for the last two years, reports The Guardian. DEA's Honorary Secretary Dr David Shearman, who is quoted in this story, says the likely mixture of dust and small particles could pose a risk to locals’ health.
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.
Many regional communities in NSW are affected by mining, which is a very distant and abstract concept to people in urban areas. In Sydney, people don’t engage with the health and environmental issues mining creates – they don’t think it affects them. But what happens when Government approves a mine that does affect Sydney, in particular, its drinking water?
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 fundamental rationale of the EIS process is to assess the balance of positive and negative impacts upon which informed decisions can be made. The impacts may be environmental, health, social and economic. Whilst DEA addresses public health issues pertaining particularly to environmental causes of ill health, it is clear that good health exists within the wider context of sustainability and preservation of ecological support systems. On this basis we make this submission.
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.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority will monitor the Blue Mountains' air quality for the first time after strong pressure from the community, including doctors, about the uncovered coal trains travelling up and down the Mountains. Read more HERE.
With the release last week of the ACCC report on power prices, it hasn't taken long for the pro-coal faction to start speaking out. However overlooked and ignored, once again, is the health costs. DEA's Graeme McLeay explains in this article in Independent Australia.
Every doctor needs to view this superb presentation by Katherine Barraclough at ANZ Association for Health Professional Educators. It details why environmental sustainability is core business for health professionals and an essential part of health education.
Former Premier of NSW Bob Carr is dismayed by Berejiklian's environmental vandalism. In this submission DEA details just one aspect of this destruction - forest clearance. See below for the DEA submission to the NSW government on this issue and note the previous two recent articles from John van der Kallen on this topic.
Download DEA's submission regarding the proposed changes to timber harvesting in NSW’s coastal forests
A health system with greater focus on preventing illness and promoting health, the judicious use of resources, less waste and low-carbon models of care will have health, financial and environmental benefits across Australia. Peter Sainsbury President of CAHA and DEA member Kate Charlesworth detail the action all doctors can take. Read the article in the Examiner.
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
Graeme McLeay calls out the Coalition in a spoof on coal, with Independent Australia providing an excellent cartoon and a video of John Clarke. Graeme asks “How is it that so many of our elected representatives are so divorced from scientific reality?” Read the article here.
Each state is responsible for developing a plan to address the health harms of climate change and as expected there are varying degrees of action. In SA the DEA committee has been involved in consultations and their submissions and suggestions are detailed here
Despite ongoing public pressure, missed deadlines and lack of secure funding, Adani is pushing ahead with their plans to build Australia's largest coal mine in the Galilee Basin. Their latest bid is to extract yet more water - from the Suttor River via the North Galilee Water Scheme - without a full environmental assessment. This water would potentially be used for other coal mines in the area, and the Suttor River feeds into the major river system going to the Great Barrier Reef. DEA put in a submission to Adani's North Galilee Water Scheme Project to have this project fully scrutinised both for its health and environmental impacts.
The Victorian Government continues to involve the community in developing strategies to improve air quality in Victoria.
DEA points out that Victoria needs to take stronger measures to reduce pollutants particularly from the coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley.
Download DEA's submission to the Clean Air for all Victorians: Victoria’s Air Quality Statement
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.
John Van Der Kallen presented at NSW Parliament House at the launch of the Forests For All: Case for Change event organised by the National Parks Association. The meeting highlighted the NSW government changes in zoning laws which allow clear felling of old growth forest. DEA supports the Forest for all Plan as the way to protect remaining NSW forests.
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.
DEA made a submission in 2017 opposing this new coal mine. Our criticisms were opposed in a supplementary EIS.
We have responded to this repeating that this is a dangerous mine to travellers on the Bruce Highway, because of blast plumes from explosions. The mine workings drain into an estuary and therefore is harmful to the Reef. The groundwater of this agricultural area is also under threat. The Queensland government continues to present huge problems for the climate and the Reef.
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.
Electric vehicles can dramatically reduce the numbers of premature deaths from air pollution in Australia, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also provide a range of terrific benefits for drivers. However despite the many pluses, Australia will continue to be a dumping ground for high polluting vehicles, writes Dr Graeme McLeay.
DEA has made a submission to this review. The government notice says “Independent Reviewer, Dr Wendy Craik, is undertaking a short-term targeted review to reduce red-tape and find practical ways to help farmers meet the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). The review will help unpack the issues faced by farmers to find real solutions while maintaining the high environmental standards Australia is renowned for." The use of the words “red tape” is likely to indicate the real intent but DEA has risen above these political aims.
Download DEA's Submission on Exploring ways to improve farmers' interaction with the EPBC Act 1999
Young people and medical students in Queensland are not being heard in the decisions on new coal mines. We are going to have to manage the environmental, community and health mess left by the fossil fuel industry and New Acland Coal (NAC). The latest event is that Queensland’s environment department is investigating claims that the mining company New Hope may have circumvented due process by expanding stage 2 operations (some of which overlap with proposed stage 3 operations) at its New Acland coalmine without waiting for approval. This is disturbing given the Courts have not made their final judgment on stage 3 of this protracted case. Read the full analysis in the article by Kaiya Ferguson the National Student Representative of Doctors for the Environment Australia. She is a final year medical student in Brisbane, at the University of Queensland.
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.
Queensland contributed 19 million tonnes of greenhouse gas in 2015 from land clearing, which was 80 percent of all the greenhouse gas from land use change in Australia for that year. After much anticipation, Queensland’s land clearing laws were finally passed last month. The laws are a significant step forward. The Annastacia Palaszczuk Government’s land clearing bill will start rectifying much of the terrible damage done to Queensland’s bushland, ecosystems and wildlife under the previous Liberal National Party government. As explained by Lucy-Jane Watt, DEA secretary of the DEA QLD committee, this is a health issue. Read full article in Croakey.
This is an armchair medical recording of Dr David Pencheon OBE speaking at the Western Sydney Forum during his recent tour of Australia. Dr Pencheon is the founding Director of the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England (www.sduhealth.org.uk). The SDU was established in 2007 with the task of ensuring the NHS operated in an environmentally sustainable way – starting with reducing its carbon emissions. Between 2007 and 2015 the NHS reduced its carbon emissions by 11% – exceeding the 10% target set in 2009, despite health and care activity increasing by 18%. This represents a saving of £1.85bn, and more broadly, the first steps in a transition towards a sustainable and resilient health and care system.
Doctors across the nation will commend the AMA President Dr Tony Bartone for his support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. DEA believes that the need for Constitutional reform as expressed in this Statement will help to remove from our nation the stain of dispossession and neglect and will be an important step in improving the health and well being of Aboriginal people. READ ON
DEA strongly supports the Gregadoo Solar farm project. The reduction of Carbon intensive energy generation is an essential component of limiting our greenhouse gas emissions, which are contributing to global warming with devastating effect on the health of the planet and its inhabitants. Pollution from Carbon energy also contributes significantly to ill health.
THE 2018 Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference to discuss better ways to dig fossil fuels out of the Earth wrapped up in Adelaide recently and it’s a sure bet they did not discuss your health. A report by consulting firm Deloitte presented at APPEA reveals oil and gas executives see electric vehicles as a threat to their industry. They are right to be worried about their bottom line, writes Dr Graeme McLeay.
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!
The Department of Planning and Environment and the Planning Assessment Commission in NSW knocked back an application for the Rocky Hill coal mine because the development is not in the public interest. The mine applicants will challenge this decision at the Land and Environment Court in August. NSW doctors, including DEA members, have written a Letter to the Editor of the Gloucester Advocate about their concerns, and have also urged readers to attend a public meeting on Wednesday 23 May at 6.30pm at Gloucester Soldiers Club. Want to know more about DEA's position?
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.
The communities around the Vales Point coal-fired power station in NSW suffer an increased incidence of asthma. The power station may now face stricter and more consistent pollution licensing as a result of recommendations from the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA). DEA and Environmental Justice Australia have had a significant role in bring this about as you can read in this article.
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.
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.
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).
“The state's five coal-fired power stations are allowed "unnecessary variation" in their pollution and operate "well below" licensed limits, providing scope for more consistent and tighter controls, the Environment Protection Agency has found”.
In other words they pollute and are contributing to ill health and causing deaths! DEA and EJA, named in the article, have been working on this reform for some time and the statement by the EPA is an important step forward; the next step is to have the licensing fee for pollution raised as detailed in DEA submissions to Federal and NSW Parliaments. Read it in the SMH and Brisbane Times.
While general practice has a relatively small environmental footprint, its role is important in the broader context of sustainability... Sustainability in health is more than just about “greening” the health sector, although environmental sustainability is an important consideration. A sustainable health and care system needs to be able to go on forever within the limits of financial, social and environmental resources. It needs to deliver high-quality care and improved public health without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage. Read full article in the Medical Republic or on the DEA website.
"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
DEA doctors in Tasmania have been alarmed to see escalated threats to biodiversity with renewed and seemingly accelerated destruction of native forests in the takayna / Tarkine region. DEA has called for a halt in logging. Read more.
On April 14, Doctors for the Environment Australia's national conference issued a joint statement to state and territory Energy Ministers from 150 concerned GPs, emergency doctors, public health physicians, paediatricians, physicians, surgeons, medical students and other health specialists. It said: “As doctors, we call on the energy ministers to enact energy policy that protects public health as a matter of priority”. Read on.
At a time when marine ecosystems are under threat from climate change increase in sea water temperature and local pollution, widespread cutbacks to marine sanctuaries are proposed by the Coalition government. Read the article by Katherine Barraclough. This is a further indication of the governments ignorance on the fundamental importance of ecosystems to human existence detailed in a recent DEA submission.
The scale of the developments in WA is enormous: a recent report states that the total global emissions from all of WA’s gas reserves (conventional and unconventional) is equivalent to 36.4bn tonnes of C02, that is eight times more than the planned Adani coal mine would produce in its lifetime.
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
In the Hunter region, community action including that of DEA has at last brought action by the state government with night time inspections to curb current dust production during night time mine work when air quality becomes even worse than daytime. Read full article.
Mr Vesey of AGL has refused the request from the Federal Government to extend the life of the Liddell power station beyond 5 years. When he said ‘‘Somebody has to be on the bleeding edge, we [AGL] are going to be the biggest emitter (of carbon dioxide] - that means we are going to need to be responsible, and take action”, he was recognising the social licence increasingly necessary for industry and was filling a role abdicated by the federal government. Now read on.
The answer is COAL! In this Editorial in the Newcastle Herald, DEA is quoted extensively on the pollution from coal fired power stations in NSW and the harm to health that results. The Herald asks why the pollution licencing system suggested by DEA and supported by the NSW EPA has not been implemented.
Bob Brown will speak at the iDEA conference on Saturday 14th in Newcastle and in the Newcastle Herald today he writes about closure of the Liddell power station and the contributions by DEA to the control of pollution from coal fired power stations.
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)
Dangerous fine particle emissions from Bayswater power station jumped by 69 per cent in 2017, according to new national data showing the Hunter’s biggest air polluters are releasing more toxic emissions than ever before. This Bayswater figure was dwarfed by a 179 per cent jump in PM2.5 fine particle emissions from Vales Point power station. Read DEA’s Ben Ewald’s comment in this article.
The recent proposal from legal experts and the Environmental Alliance for new environmental laws recognises that health and the environment are indivisible. It is now the task of doctors' organisations to develop their input. This is a preventative health issue above all, and needs recognition of common cause between doctors and the environmental movement. This article in Croakey explains how reform of climate change and air pollution policy can begin.
A delegation of DEA doctors (Ben Ewald, Arnagretta Hunter, Selina Lo) attended the "Better Laws for a Better Planet Symposium" hosted by the Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law (APEEL), IUCN Australia Committee, National Environmental Law Association, and Places You Love Alliance, on March 27, in Canberra at University House Hotel.
The proposed mining of coal in Queensland is a matter of national and international concern, demanding condemnation from Australian leaders at least of the magnitude of that they expended on sandpaper and a cricket ball. On a week that the UK banned development of a coal mine because of greenhouse emissions, Queensland quietly revived the proposal for a vast dormant mine approval at Wilton, North Queensland.
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.
Australia needs an independent National Environmental Protection Agency to safeguard the environment and deliver effective climate policy, according to a new campaign launched today by a coalition of environmental, legal and medical organisations, including DEA. The initiative was launched today in Canberra and David Shearman has written this article to explain its role.
Read the full article
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.
Greenhouse gas emissions from developing WA’s unconventional gas resources will be about three times as much as Australia has agreed to emit under the Paris Agreement, hampering global efforts to contain climate change.
A recent statement by the McGowan Labor Government who plan to make WA into a "global LNG hub" is deeply concerning for the control of green house emissions. Furthermore it begs the question whether the recent WA enquiry into the risks from fracking might be used to promote the production of additional (unconventional) gas in the state.
Download the DEA Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation in Western Australia 2017 Submission and media release.
Today, the Supreme court case begins in Queensland with New Hope Coal; contesting the decision of the Land Court and the Queensland government to stop the Acland mine. This legal decision will be vital for future control of coal development. The history of this case is detailed by Queensland EDO below. A search for Acland on the DEA web site will illustrate our huge involvement over 6 years with many submissions, letters to ministers and appearances in Court by our expert witnesses. For the Land Court judgement, see also https://www.dea.org.au/reneweconomy-revelations-from-the-new-acland-coal-mine-case/
The Federal Government has produced a biodiversity conservation strategy paper which is deeply flawed in its assessments and fails to understand the urgency for action. In response, DEA has written a submission which demands action. The government has no recognition of climate change as a causative factor in biodiversity loss or of the health effects this will have.
Download DEA's submission on Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2018-2030: Australia’s biodiversity conservation strategy and action inventory.
The National Energy Guarantee (NEG) and Turnbull Government's current energy policy have significant adverse health implications, causing deaths and illness, in Australia and globally. Health is totally ignored in their deliberations.
The consultation paper is fundamentally flawed in failing to include health considerations from air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions which have considerable costs to human health and the nation.
Australia’s fuel standards for vehicles are the lowest of the countries comprising the OECD and amongst the lowest in the G20. They cause ill health and deaths from air pollution and also contribute a large and growing proportion of our greenhouse emissions. There has to be reform.
Read DEA's recommendations to the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions on the Better fuel for cleaner air draft regulation impact statement.
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.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has endorsed the Tighes Hill community’s overwhelming support for the closure of Carrington coal terminal and concentrating all coal exports on Kooragang Island, which was further away from residential areas.
DEA joins environment groups to step up a campaign for a comprehensive study of Hunter air quality health impacts after local evidence has supported overseas research linking power station emissions and pre-term births.
This is a developing issue of great importance. Many DEA members would have seen a leak to The Guardian; we await the definitive proposals from the Environmental Alliance. Their proposal arises from a recent report from a large group of distinguished environmental lawyers. The main aim is to provide a secure basis for a National Environmental Protection Authority, rather like the USEPA but secure against Trump-like demolition. With political games on environment, climate and health policy in Australia for 20 years, a secure Authority is seen as vital. I suggest all members read the long list of recommendations from APEEL.
A higher than average incidence of health issues in the Latrobe Valley has promoted the state government to look into the impacts of toxic emissions from the region's three power plants. Poor air quality caused by blasting, dust and transportation of coal is having a marked impact on residents in the area, with low birthweights being nearly two percent higher than the national average.
Doctors for the Environment Australia recently wrote a submission to the Victorian EPA pointing out the link between air pollution exposure and the risk of low birth weight which has been called alarmist. We would call it alarmingly realistic.
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.
In welcome news, Victoria’s environmental watchdog is reviewing the licences of the state’s three remaining coal-fired power plants which supply about 80% of the state’s power.
Figures produced by Doctors for the Environment Australia at a recent Planning Assessment Commission hearing into a coal mine expansion in the Hunter have attracted intense community and media attention, including an editorial in the Newcastle Herald which posed the question: How much data is needed to get action?
South32 chief executive Graham Kerr is candid about why the mining company he leads is turning its back on thermal coal: It's becoming less appealing to investors, it has an uncertain future and it is linked to climate change.
Dr Geralyn McCarron, a Brisbane GP, has spent more than five years living in the gas fields of Australia.
This experience has led Dr McCarron to provide testimony both nationally and internationally regarding the health impacts of the gas industry and most recently authoring and publishing a peer reviewed paper.
Doctors are today calling on NSW Health to undertake as a matter of urgency a proper health study looking at the reasons for the dramatic spike in hospital admissions in the Upper Hunter.
Shocking data recently highlighted by DEA show Singleton Hospital admissions in NSW’s Upper Hunter spiked by 28.6 per cent during periods which coincided with poor air quality in the area.
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.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has today welcomed the Queensland Government’s decision to reject the environmental approvals for the expansion of the New Acland Coal mine, describing it as the only sensible decision open to the government given the potential risks posed by the project.
Doctors for the Environment Australia make the following submission with eight recommendations in relation to the licence reviews of Victoria’s power stations as brown coal-fired power stations are major polluters and greenhouse gas emitters.
Download the Victorian brown coal-fired power stations licence reviews submission
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.
Victoria’s forests are simply extraordinary. They support our health in a variety of ways and there is currently a community call for a new Great Forest National Park in our Central Highlands. Despite this, state government owned Vicforests continues industrial clear fell logging. In addition to the push from environmentalists and scientists there is a strong argument for the protection of our remaining forests on health grounds.
When I received the January newsletter from an alma mater, Yale University, there was a tribute to economist William Nordhaus. He was already waxing on the issues of the day when I was doing postgraduate study and working in the Yale University Medical Centre in 1965.
Nordhaus is central to DEA interests and aims and indeed to all our lives and the future, they are the issues of coal and the Commons. Nordhaus’s work is about the economics of the Commons.
We know from the work of William Nordhaus that coal has no economic value to communities if all social, health and environment, and climate related impacts are taken into account. Coal remains viable only in the minds of climate deniers, some governments, and fossil fuel barons who continue to profit despite its harms.
Doctors for the Environment Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide further feedback following the release of the draft Final Report into Hydraulic Fracturing.
It is our recommendation that the moratorium on fracking in NT should be extended indefinitely. Whilst the Inquiry has identified regulatory options that may minimise some of the risks of fracking, DEA believes that for NT, such a response is premature, overly optimistic, and overlooks climate change which is the greatest threat to human and economic health that we face.
Download the Submission to the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory in Response to the Draft Final Report.
A study in the International Journal of Environmental Studies by DEA’s Dr Geralyn McCarron, showing a possible link between pollutants from the CSG industry and a spike in hospitalisations in the Darling Downs raises questions about safety, but also about how the industry responds to public health concerns.
In response to the paper, the peak national gas industry body the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) attacked the author and made sweeping and incorrect statements about the study, rather than expressing concern about the findings.
In this Croakey blog, Dr McCarron responds to the attacks and calls on health authorities to take responsibility for further investigation of the health impacts of the CSG industry on local residents.
National air quality reporting standards are failing to protect people's health argue DEA members, John Van der Kallen and Ben Ewald, after windy weather whipped up dust from local coal mines in the Hunter Valley last weekend resulting in air pollution for residents that breached regulations. Yet there are no significant consequences for the mining companies for violation of standards.
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.
After a successful eight -year community led campaign, the SA government recently announced that the world’s largest stand-alone concentrated solar thermal (CST) power plant will begin construction in Port Augusta. This will transform a city which was powered by ageing coal fired power stations into a city with a bright future as a renewable energy hub in the 21st century. What’s more, doctors and medical students were a major driving force behind this decision, writes Dr Ingo Weber with AMA vice-president Dr Chris Moy.
Doctors are alarmed, but not surprised, at data estimating the significant carbon footprint of our health care system - over 7% of Australia’s total carbon footprint.
There are arguably three dimensions of medical ethics. The first is the health of the patient. The second dimension is the health of the community. And the third dimension concerns how our actions both in and out of the clinic affect the global community and natural world around us on which the health of current and future generations depends.
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.
The diversity and complexity of the health issues that we face, whether as journalists or public health advocates or policymakers, can be overwhelming. In dealing with a constant avalanche of health-related news, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture.
Bushfires have always been a part of the Australian ecology, but now that ecology is changing.
The Victorian Government released a strategy for protecting Victoria’s biodiversity in April 2017. This article is the third in a series in Park Watch (see the June and September 2017 editions) that addresses the strategy and why it matters.
Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 is the first formal statewide long-term biodiversity plan in two decades, and it contains a range of priorities and initiatives. Chapter Four, ‘A healthy environment for healthy Victorians’ explores why spending time connecting with nature is good for our health as individuals and as a society.
he Victorian Government’s Victorian Memorandum for Health and Nature is also a significant step in recognising that looking after nature also means looking after the health of people and their communities.
The impacts of a development must be seen in the context of national and international health. These important links are explained in “The health factor: Ignored by industry and overlooked by government”, Appendix 1: The need to protect public health.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has today applauded the rejection of the Rocky Hill open cut coalmine proposal near Gloucester.
DEA supports the prohibition of open cut mining in the mapped area of the Upper Hunter near Jerrys Plains. However DEA is of the view that the amendment does not go far enough, and that all coal mining on the site should be prohibited. This is because any form of coal mining on this site would have damaging effects on local population health, the environment and existing industry. Furthermore, coal mining on this site would have negative global effects, from the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent effects of climate change, including threats to health. Therefore DEA advocates for the Mining SEPP amendment to be widened, to include a ban on all coal mining on the site.Download the Submission to the open cut mining prohibition for Drayton South 12-17
My guess is most Australians aren’t aware that an area of forest and bushland the size of the MCG is currently bulldozed in Queensland every three minutes, mainly for livestock grazing. Data released this year reveals that over 1 million hectares have been cleared over the last three years, making Eastern Australia a global deforestation hot-spot alongside places like the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo. Inexcusably, we are the only advanced economy still engaged in broad-scale land clearing.
Submission to the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) on
– Alinta Energy Reeves Plains Power Station, comprising the construction of a 300 MW capacity gas fired peaking power station
– AGL Energy Grand Trunkway, Torrens Island, comprising the construction of a two stage power station with a total capacity of 420 MW
In making this submission we consider both projects together as they share commonalities of concern to us.At this time, when global warming is shaping an energy transformation around the world, South Australia is recognised as a leader in renewable energy. To turn to fossil fuel power generation in order to fill a shortfall in capacity is regressive and cannot be justified on health grounds (or economic grounds, given the price of gas).
Download the DEA Submission to the State Commission Assessment Panel SCAP 11-17
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).
The proposed Rocky Hill open-cut coalmine near Gloucester should be rejected outright by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC), which is meeting this week. There are plenty of reasons for tearing up the proposal – open-cut mines are bad for health.
Dr Dimity Williams is a GP on a mission.
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.
Since the initial DEA submission there has been new evidence regarding the impact of open cut coal mines on health as well the rejection of a similar proposal, the New Acland Coal mine extension, by the Land Court in Queensland.
DEA rejects this proposal on health grounds. The mine is simply too close to the township of Gloucester, risking the health of the local population and nearby populations from pollution along the coal corridor.
Download the Supplementary submission to Rocky Hill PAC 11-17
Will they kick the coal to save the coral?
The proposed Rocky Hill open cut mine will have a major impact on the health of the local community with the mine simply too close to the township of Gloucester.
DEA congratulates Medibank Private Health Insurance on their announcement today that they will commence divestment from fossil fuels, in acknowledgement of the health impacts of climate change. This follows their announcement earlier this year that they will reach carbon neutrality in their own operations by 2018.
“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.”
The proposed Adani-owned Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland is currently in the final stages of planning with the support of both the Queensland and Australian governments. It is in the interest of human health, locally and abroad, for the medical profession to advocate on behalf of the community and lobby our legislators to reject this project.
DEA has already made a comprehensive submission and provided additional information in a further submission to the Inquiry, and these are now in the Submission library (numbers 96 and 477).
Transport is an important part of a developed nation such as Australia, providing goods and services vital to health and the economy. The way in which transport is conducted in Australia is important to the health and well-being of all Australians.
Doctors for the Environment Australia have welcomed the Australian Automobile Association’s (AAA) call for the introduction of a real world testing of cars, as the initiative would save thousands of lives.
Amid all the debate about energy policy – about security, affordability, and carbon emissions – there is one critical issue that has barely rated a mention: human health. Coal is hazardous to our health; renewables are not. In any discussion about energy, the human health costs of coal and the significant health benefits of switching to safe and healthy forms of energy must be considered as seriously as security, affordability and emissions.
Australia’s annual emissions from energy use have increased to their highest-ever level according to the recent report by respected energy expert Hugh Saddler. This finding is disturbing, and points to a failure by government to address climate change across all sectors.
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.
The debate on energy has omitted one vital factor that may have provided a rational outcome – health. It requires dedication by the Federal Government to avoid mentioning health in the context of coal. This avoidance is cloaked in the mantra of “coal is clean”, “clean coal”, “coal is good for humanity”, “coal is cheap” – all flying in the face of universally known evidence.
“Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and is essential for human health. Consequently there needs to be a high priority given to protecting the quality of our drinking water.”
Imagine there was a giant new tobacco factory being planned for regional Queensland. And that both the state and federal governments were backing its development, and offering public money to support it. There would likely be considerable outcry from medical and health organisations and much public debate about supporting this unethical industry.
Any water discharged from the Springvale mine, near Lithgow, needs to be treated to the legally required standard to ensure Sydney has safe drinking water, urge health experts.
There are numerous examples of where communities have been put at risk from the rapid expansion of the coal and unconventional gas industry in NSW. Bulga, Singleton, Camden are some of the sites that come to mind.
Even AGL recognises its Liddell power station is neither “clean” nor “cheap”, but the Coalition Government promotes such lies to preserve its own power over community health, writes Dr David Shearman.
Liddell coal-fired power station — one of the most polluting in Australia — must close earlier than 2022 rather than later as suggested by the Turnbull Government on Tuesday, urge concerned doctors.
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
In 2012, Australia made history by creating the world’s largest network of marine sanctuaries. This was the result of decades of scientific research, work by all sides of politics, and overwhelming community support. Science shows that sanctuaries protect marine life, help reefs to recover from coral bleaching, and ensure we have fish for the future.
Health professionals, farming families, environmental activists and community members attended a forum in Townsville last week where serious health concerns were raised about the Adani Carmichael mine.
Our thanks to James Cook University medical student Kira Muller for providing the following report for Croakey readers.
Organised by members of Doctors for the Environment Australia, this public forum held at James Cook University in Townsville involved doctors, nurses and farmers speaking out on the impacts of the Adani Carmichael mine on health.
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.
What: Free public forum and discussion on how the Adani Carmichael mine will affect health
In a world that must transition to renewable energy to ensure our future, the visionary Mayor of Port Augusta (PA), the late Joy Baluch said “God is not going to send us a bill for solar energy, but the gas industry will”.
….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.
This week’s report on Australian coal-fired power stations reveals staggering levels of polluting emissions and underlines the problems created by coal combustion for the health of the planet and its inhabitants, and provides further evidence that coal as a fuel is approaching its use-by date.
Doctors are calling for the phase out Australia’s coal-fired power stations within the next 10 years to reduce the numbers of avoidable deaths and illnesses, in response to a damning report released today.
Doctors applaud the South Australian Government’s support of a solar thermal plant with storage in Port Augusta – the biggest of its kind in the world.
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”.
DEA was pleased to contribute to a book by the Australian Marine Conservation Society outlining the value of the Great Barrier Reef. It is called ‘The Reef- a love story’ and was presented to the Minister for the Environment & Energy, Josh Frydenberg and also shared widely at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Poland. Josh was reportedly deeply appreciative of the book. You can download the book from this link to a drop box folder (to view it as a book you need to open the downloaded file in Adobe Acrobat and view in a 2 page format).
The Land Court recommendation against expansion of New Acland Coal (NAC) open cut mine has exposed the ongoing complaints by neighbours, about dust, noise, vibrations and lighting spills from the existing mine. Could this be the turning point for improvement or even reform of health and environmental assessments in Queensland?
DEA expressed alarm after learning that a major Australian hospital had publicly backed a proposed coal mine.
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.
Media reports last week that the government planned to introduce strict new fuel and vehicle efficiency standards starting in 2022, characterised as a “carbon tax on cars”, brought an emphatic denial from Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg.
With mining interests calling for new high efficiency coal fired power stations to be built in the Hunter region, it is time to examine the health effects of these proposed plants.
Australia’s energy debate needs to consider mounting evidence that unconventional gas extraction poses a serious risk to human health, argues David Shearman.
Young doctors across the nation will today start a week-long social media campaign aimed at pressuring the Commonwealth Bank not to fund new coal mines, including Adani, because coal is hazardous to health.
Globally air pollution is an increasingly important public health problem. Nationally ambient (outdoor) air pollution contributes significantly to morbidity and mortality. Reductions in fossil fuel combustion to mitigate climate change have the potential to also benefit health by reducing concentrations of air pollutants which contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular disease and premature mortality.
News that the Finkel report on how to make the energy market secure is facing bitter opposition among the ranks of the Coalition doesn’t bode well.
Hazelwood, in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, was noted for being the most carbon polluting coal-fired power station in Australia. The plant ceased operations in March – five months after majority owner, Engie, announced the decision to close when it became clear that it could not meet the estimated $400 million to maintain health and safety standards ordered by WorkSafe Victoria.
A three year notice to be given by companies for closure of air polluting coal power stations means three years with more deaths and illness in the community, according to health experts responding to the Finkel report released today.
By Dr Lea Merone and Dr Andrew Daltry
Human health and the environment are inextricably linked in a number of ways. Natural ecosystems support our health by filtering our air, providing fresh water and food, protecting against spread of disease and pests, forming physical defenses from weather, and regulating our climate.
Just one day after the Adani board gave the go-ahead to the Carmichael coal mine project, nurses, doctors and concerned community members wearing stethoscopes and surgical masks and carrying placards will deliver letters to the Commonwealth Bank’s Board of Directors at the bank’s headquarters on Sussex Street, Sydney, and to key branches in Brisbane and Perth.
Leading medical doctors have today made an urgent call to each of the Board members of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to rule out an investment loan allowing Adani to build a rail line from the Galilee Basin to Abbot Point, because of the dangers coal poses to public health.
DEA notes a number of deficiencies, unsupported assumptions, known and unknown risks in relation to the Santos Narrabri Gasfield project. We recommend rejection of this proposal on the basis that it cannot sufficiently guarantee the safety of human health and ecosystems supporting health.
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 calls for proper implementation of the pollution license fee system for NSW power stations to protect public health.
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.
Doctors slam yet another review of Australia’s electricity supply, saying it raises questions of probity, and also delays efforts to reduce green-house gas emissions from dirty energy production that is harming our health.
There is growing concern in the NT that the Gunner Government may remove the moratorium on fracking. However, rejecting the moratorium would be a grave mistake, and Territorians know this. That’s why we voted for the moratorium in the landslide ALP victory in August 2016.
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.
Medical doctors have called for an extension of the moratorium on fracking in the Northern Territory, fearing that the Government’s focus on developing a regulatory framework for fracking could signal support for this highly controversial procedure.
Australia has seen rapid growth in interest and development of exploration and drilling for unconventional gas reserves from coal seams, shale deposits and tight sands. These reserves require special techniques such as fracking, in-seam and horizontal drilling. Doctors for the Environment Australia is concerned that the rush to exploit this resource has outpaced regulation to protect public health and the environment, and to adequately assess the health impacts, including exposures to industrial chemicals.
Mining incurs a range of environmental impacts that persist after the production phase of the mine has ended. There are changes in vegetation and landscape, exposure and potential ignition of fossil fuels, the pollution of air, soils and water, the introduction of aquatic sediments into water sources and land subsidence. Any of these can result in loss of productive land, loss or degradation of groundwater, pollution of surface water and air pollution from dust or toxic gases, with subsequent negative impacts on human health.
We know that air pollution is responsible for 3000 preventable deaths a year. Dr John Van Der Kallen says as the solutions to our air pollution and climate chaos are obvious and available, it is now a matter of getting on with it.