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Expanding gas mining threatens our climate, water and health

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.

Media release: Major new report busts the myth of gas as a safe “transition” fuel

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. 

Image: Rosalie Schultz

Climate change and health in rural Australia

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

Media release: Doctors join School Strike 4 Climate

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

The Mercury Talking Point: Tasmania burns while leaders fiddle

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. 

Doctors need to get behind the great food transformation

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”. 

The kids are right – we must act on climate change

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. 

SE Qld. autumn heatwave could be new normal

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.  

Serious questions arise about Glencore's cap on coal output

"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. 

Two new coal fired power stations proposed for the Hunter Valley

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.

DEA and AMA President Dr Tony Bartone discuss climate change as a health issue

A much welcome meeting took place this week between AMA President Dr Tony Bartone, DEA's Co-Chairs Prof Kingsley Faulkner and Dr Eugenie Kayak and Dr Laura Beaton. The  lengthy and productive meeting focused on the impact of climate change on health, sustainability in health care, and the forthcoming federal election. They also discussed the urgent need to act on emissions reduction.

Media release: The WA Government and gas industry is peddling myths 

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 appears at enquiry into Mineral Resources (Galilee Basin)  Amendment Bill 2018 in Brisbane

DEA has provided a submission in support of stopping all coal mining in the Galilee Basin. Drs Lucy-Jane Watt, Karin Kochmann and Andrew Jerimijenko were asked to appear before the committee and gave evidence about health impacts of climate change and coal mining. The evidence was well-received and the committee has asked for further details about the dollar-health costs of climate change.  However, DEA's delegation said it was disheartening to see some members keep returning to 'rusted-on ideology', suggesting 'Adani coal is cleaner and somehow better for climate change, and preoccupied with our coal saving the developing world'.

NewsGP: Medical group supports School Strike 4 Climate 

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’.  

Media release: Medical group backs next school-children’s rally on climate action 

Doctors have today pledged strong support for children planning to walk out of school on 15 March to demand action on climate change, and are urging Australia’s thousands of doctors to do the same. 

The Murray-Darling needs life support with expert team management

The Murray issue is just one of several complex issues that governments can no longer manage for the future, simply because human nature being as it is, electoral needs and demands will always hold sway. Management of the Great Barrier Reef and climate change policy fit into the same category — they must be taken out of the political sphere. 

NSW election: our chance to vote 1 for climate and health

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. 

A little brown rodent is the first mammalian extinction attributable to climate change. 

In the wake the demise of  the Bramble Cay melomy, DEA's biodiversity committee convenor, Dimity Williams, says Australia needs to act quickly, as both extensive habitat loss and climate change are major factors in further extinctions. For example, there is near complete loss of old growth forests in Victoria. "Areas they have left are very small and they are vulnerable to severe weather events." 
She said that while many people would question why the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomy should matter to any one individual, the answer lies in humankind's reliance on all natural systems for health. From ecosystems that clean water, air and provide food, to the medicines and anti-venom that come from plants and animals, human rely on all sorts of ecosystems to continue functioning.

Brisbane Times: After the deluge, north Queenslanders face a deadly new threat 

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.

Black Saturday: What have we learnt?

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. 

There’s no healthy debate on mine impacts - by Dr John Van Der Kallen

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. 

DEA in the news - Dr Ben Ewald's NSW air quality study

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...

Media release: Major new report sounds alarm over worsening air pollution in NSW

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.

Media release: Doctors call for no more coalmines after Court rejects Rocky Hill on climate change grounds

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. 

ABC radio - The World Today on heatwaves

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. 

NSW power stations emissions standards to be reviewed under Labor

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?"

Mandatory gas connections are out of step with tackling climate change

New building estates forced to install gas pipelines

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. 

Media release: Major new report sounds alarm over worsening air pollution in NSW

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.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of bushfires

Health and the Tasmanian bushfires

 "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.

Independent Australia: The economics of climate change

While the rich get richer, not only do the poor get poorer but the environment continues to suffer, writes Dr David Shearman.

SMH Opinion: A doctor's prescription for beating the heat

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.

ABC Opinion: Why the Western diet needs to shift to a 'planetary health diet' in the age of climate change

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 Guardian: Extreme heatwave all-time temperature records fall across parts of Australia

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.

Daily Telegraph: Elite athletes' fiercest opponent

As some of the world's great tennis players celebrate their wins at the end of a gruelling tournament at the Australian Open, they would no doubt think all the sacrifices they’ve made have all been worth it. But, writes Dr Beau Frigault, DEA's  Queensland state chair, exposure from extreme heat might soon be too high a price for some athletes — and spectators — to pay. 

Why We Need Forests and Native Vegetation for Our Health: Fact Sheet

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. 

How Land Clearing Harms Our Health: Fact Sheet

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.

An Australian Healthcare Sustainability Unit (HSU)  - DEA Proposal

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

Making your practice more eco-friendly

"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."

Join us in Hobart for iDEA 2019!

iDEA 2019 Conference 5th-7th April

Join us in Hobart for iDEA, our annual conference!

State of the Environment Report

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.....

A doctor's prescription for climate change

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

Sound The Alpenhorn!

Dr David Shearman argues Australia should follow Switzerland's lead and develop a comprehensive climate change plan.

Green Prescriptions

The health benefits of our natural environment are worth protecting, argues Dr John Van Der Kallen.

The irony of healthcare

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.

How to green your practice

Drs Sharon Muir and Michelle Crockett have built a practice that is not only making a difference to the health and wellbeing of their local community, it's making a difference to the environment too.

Preventing heat related disease in general practice

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.  

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