As a sign of the rising concern within the health profession of the health risks posed by climate change, Australia’s peak medical groups have issued a joint statement calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to place health at the centre of Australia’s Covid-19 pandemic economic response. The groups represent around 90,000 individual doctors and all of the nation’s GPs, emergency room doctors, physicians, obstetricians, psychiatrists, and intensive care specialists.
On Monday July 20, the interim report of the EPBC Act review was released by Professor Graeme Samuel, the chair of the review panel. This included some positive proposals, but on the whole failed to present a reform agenda commensurate with the environmental crisis we face. In fact, some of the report’s recommendations have the potential a lead to a lowering of environmental protections at a time when entire ecosystems are on the brink of collapse. Click here to read what DEA's response to the interim report will focus on.
Australia’s power stations are located near regional towns such as Morwell, Victoria, Muswellbrook, New South Wales, and Gladstone, Queensland, or in rural areas well away from cities, writes Dr Ben Ewald. So most people living in cities would assume that they are protected from coal-fired air pollution by distance from the source.
However a new Greenpeace report shows this is not the case, and substantial damage to our health from coal derived pollution is also occurring in major cities.
The Victorian Government is to be congratulated for its decision to drive the COVID-19 recovery with investments in clean energy ('A shot in the arm:' Victoria backs clean energy in bid to fuel COVID-19 recovery, The Age, 1 Sep). With Australia still reeling from a summer of fires and smoke pollution that contributed to thousands of hospital admissions and hundreds of deaths, this not only represents a means of creating jobs and stimulating the economy but also protecting health.
COVID-19 has infected and killed over 500 people in Australia and impacted thousands more. Dr Graeme McLeay and A/Prof Vicki Kotsirilos AM state that there is, however, another silent and largely ignored health hazard, and that is air pollution.
Approximately 3,000 premature deaths occur each year as a result of air pollution. About half of these deaths come from transport pollution, with cars contributing the bulk of that. With Australia’s air quality standards currently under review, we have an opportunity to introduce laws that will substantially improve the air we breathe.
As emissions plunge to their lowest levels in 30 years as a result of COVID-19, and the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reductions Angus Taylor pushes for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund new gas projects, Dr George Crisp warns gas is not a transition fuel- rather it's no better than coal in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Dr Crisp urges the federal government to place evidence-based solutions that address climate change at the core of Australia's pandemic economic recovery.
Human health is indivisible from healthy, biodiverse
ecosystems. When we allow biodiversity and ecosystems to decline or be lost, we
compromise the essentials for survival - our food security, our water resources, the
air we breathe and the stability of our climate. Addressing the ecosystem decline in Victoria will be an enormous challenge, however DEA believes the potential negative consequences of inaction to human health and welling being , makes it clear that immediate action is needed. Click here to read DEA's full submission
The Western Australian government recently called for submissions on their A Stronger Tomorrow - State Infrastructure Strategy discussion paper. DEA supports the concept and proposal of taking a long term and broad approach
to infrastructure planning and development starting with an assessment of
Our view as a medical organisation is that health should be a central
consideration in planning, development and policy. DEA identified notable health
related omissions both in content and methodology in the discussion paper and
scenarios. To read DEA's full submission click here
As the EPBC debate is expected to resume in Federal Parliament as early as tomorrow, a prominent medical group warns an attempt by the Scott Morrison Government to rush legislation to weaken Australia’s environmental protections, will have major health costs now and in the longer term.
AGL and APA are seeking approval for the building of an LNG import facility and pipeline in Western Port, Victoria. The area is environmentally sensitive, in the middle of a Ramsar wetland, and has generated fierce community, Council and MP opposition. DEA's Submission.
DEA recently provided input into the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report
on Resources Sector Regulation as regulation of this sector has the task of
balancing economic gains from extraction with losses from environmental
destruction and pollution. DEA believes that all resource sector activities should consider short- and long term health and environmental impacts, and work within a system that respects
expertise, fairness, transparency and accountability. Click here to read the full submission
Zoonosis is an infectious
disease that can be passed from
an animal to a human. Our newest fact sheet explores zoonotic diseases, how ongoing human encroachment on natural habitats has led to an increase in zoonotic diseases over the past 30 years, posing a major risk to the human race and how it is vital that we start
protecting and preserving
nature so that it can protect us.
August's edition of the Australian Journal of General Practice features an article by DEA members outlining the health impacts of climate change and the role of GPs in responding to these impacts. The article contends that "While the clinical skills that underpin the practice of medicine have not changed, the environmental and planetary context has shifted" and outlines actions that GPs can take at a personal, practice and professional level.
We wish to thank the AMA, RACGP, RACP, ACEM, RANZCP, RANZCOG, ACRRM, CICM, and AMSA for signing the #HealthyRecovery joint letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The letter from Australia's peak medical groups, representing most of the nation's doctors, which DEA coordinated draws attention to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change as two global health emergencies that the nation must respond to. It strongly urges the federal government to take a health-centred approach to the COVID-19 recovery by transitioning away from coal and gas to renewables, electric vehicles, and public transport. The letter attracted a large number of media hits which we list.
The summer's bushfires blanketed Australia's east coast with thick smoke, writes Dr Bob Vickers. But even when we don't have bushfires, Australians are still being exposed to harmful air pollution from sources such as coal-fired power stations.
DEA strongly opposes the Narrabri Gas Project and submitted its first submission to object to the Narrabri Gas Project in 2017. This supplementary submission addresses the inadequacies and deficiencies in the Narrabri Gas Project application and why DEA maintains that gas is a health hazard. Click here to read the full supplementary submission
It is the position of DEA that ongoing coal mining and combustion poses an unacceptable health risk due to greenhouse gas emissions. DEA is one of many health and medical organisations across the globe calling for urgent action to mitigate
climate change. Collectively these groups
have highlighted the devastating impact a warming climate will have on human health. The specific effects of rising temperatures on human health are summarised in this submission, leading to our conclusion that approving the Vickery Extension Project is not in
the interests of Australia or of human health on the international scale.
DEA has provided a submission on the Proposed Actions 2020/8708 and 2020/8709 . DEA recommends that both actions be assessed under the EPBC Act as they are likely to have significant impact on World Heritage properties and National Heritage places.
Doctors have described Viva Energy’s proposed gas import and storage facility in North Geelong as a folly, warning that it poses risks to the local environment and to the health of local residents, as well as fuelling more dangerous climate change.
Doctors for the Environment Australia congratulates industry superannuation funds HESTA and First State Super on their recent moves to exit thermal coal.
These are large funds (FSS $130 billion and HESTA $52 billion) whose members are health workers.
Mounting pressure from members and advocacy groups such as DEA over the last few years has been rewarded with these announcements which are part of policy change to put the funds in line with meeting their commitment to the Paris target.
Covid-19 has its challenges, especially in Victoria at the moment. Dr Beau Frigault writes that generally, though, Australia relative to other parts of the world has managed the pandemic well. This proves that when we are in a crisis, we rise to the occasion and do what is right to protect all of us. We need to have a similar response to the critical issue of climate change.
The Australian Government invited brief commentary on their Technology Roadmap to guide investment in energy generation over the next few decades. One key concept in this Roadmap is the notion of technology “neutrality”. However, this concept should be rejected as technologies are not equivalent in their potential to reduce emissions. There are sufficient zero-emitting technologies available for further development without wasting resources on fossil-fuels. The Roadmap also fails as it does not have a “destination”, that is, a well-defined emissions-reduction target. For details of DEA’s submission, see here.
Australia is particularly vulnerable to some of the worst impacts of climate change with extreme heat, drought, drying rivers, coastal erosion and changing patterns of disease-- threatening health, livelihoods and the social fabric, write Drs Graeme McLeay and Ingo Weber. While paying lip service to the urgency underpinning the Paris Agreement to keep average global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times, Australia is embarking zealously on a course to promote and profit from the export and use of fossil fuels, most recently with calls for a gas-led "recovery". The argument though that gas is a transition fuel and clean is disingenuous.
The Royal Commission on the 2019-20 summer bushfires released an Issues Paper in May, specifically addressing the health care arrangements of natural disasters. DEA’s submission calls for a national health and climate change strategy to include better public health information, a nationalised approach to air quality monitoring and reporting, more research on the health impacts of smoke events better integration of primary health care providers in emergency responses. Read our submission here.
Like many Australians, this summer's horrific fires had a profound impact on Dr Dimity Williams. Not only did she experience angst about the fires in Victoria burning her ‘happy place’ -the Thurra River in Croajingalong National Park in East Gippsland- her oldest son, who had gone camping with friends in NSW, was among those evacuated on New Year’s Eve. Dr Williams writes that this catastrophic event is the new normal, and what those of us who have been advocating for action on climate change for the past decades have been warning about.
Health experts, including GPs and medical specialists, are today launching a video message warning that a gas-led pandemic economic recovery would be hazardous to health and cost lives. The call by doctors is attached to a petition calling for a renewable recovery instead.
Doctors for the Environment Australia members urge the Morrison Government to seek an alternative to a gas led recovery from the Covid19 pandemic. With Australia's abundance of solar and wind energy capabilities, a renewable energy led recovery will protect both the environment and human health. Head to https://turnoffthegas.good.do/turnoffthegas/
Outlined in the attached frequently asked questions, are the many problems methane poses for the environment and human health and why doctors are calling for an alternative solution to the "gas-led" recovery from the Covid19 pandemic.
The fundamental objective of Doctors for the Environment Australia is to protect and enhance health by protecting the environment. There are other social determinants of health and racial discrimination, dispossession, inequality and injustice are prominent among them. DEA expects that closing the gap in health and life expectancy of the First people of our land must be of the highest priority for government, alongside protecting the environment.
The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) has developed an audit tool on how anaesthetists can Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Research their way to a more environmentally sustainable hospital workplace. The tool was developed by the ANZCA Environmental Sustainability Working Party, which includes several DEA members.
Air pollution is a known risk factor for a number of diseases and is associated with increased risk of mortality and chronic diseases and hospitalisations even from exposure at low doses below current national standards, writes A/Prof Vicki Kotsirilos AM. Whether air pollution is or isn’t a significant modifiable contributor to mortality associated with COVID-19 deaths, the studies and the improvement of air quality during the pandemic do remind us why we should continue to urgently do further research, tackle and tighten air pollution standards in Australia and the rest of the world.
Australia's environmental track record is among the worst of all countries, write A/Professor Katherine Barraclough, Victorian Chair of DEA, and Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance. As our environmental laws undergo a once-in-a-decade review, health experts insist that environmental protections must be strengthened. Why? Human health is fundamentally dependent on the health of the natural world - for clean air, water and soils, food security, protection against infectious diseases and a stable climate. Nature is also the source of over half of all medicines we rely on.
The natural world filters our air, provides fresh water and food, regulates our climate, protects against the spread of disease and pests and fosters our mental wellbeing. It also is a source of over one third of all medicines. As the preamble on the World Environment Day website states, 'To care for ourselves we must care for nature...It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices.
It’s time to build back better for People and Planet.
This World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature'. Read more about what DEA is doing to protect nature.
In the largest ever mobilisation of the health sector, DEA has joined over 370 health organisations and 40 million health professionals demanding a healthy recovery form Covid-19. This means reducing air pollution, reforming fossil fuel subsidies, scales up renewable energy, ramps up public transportation and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. #HealthyRecovery
Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley are among more than 180 health professionals and leading health groups who have signed an open letter, warning the federal government must strengthen Australia’s weak environment laws to protect health.
The letter warns that a failure to conserve our environment is in effect dismantling our life support systems, exposing humanity to potentially even more deadly pandemics than COVID-19, as well as catastrophic climate change, which fuelled the horrific Black Summer bushfires.
DEA in conjunction with the Climate and Health Alliance recently wrote to the Hon. Sussan Ley MP and the Independent Review Panel. With support from a number of individuals and health organisations, the aim of the letter was to draw attention to the current review of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and its importance to the health of Australians.
DEA has provided a submission to the Senate inquiry, Lessons to be Learnt in relation to the 2019-20 bushfire season. DEA recommendations include the need for more research into the effects of long term exposure to
bushfire smoke and better public health advice on how to best protect ourselves from its health impacts. It must be recognised that the underlying driver of Australia's worsening bushfire seasons is climate change.
Big problems require big solutions at government level. But positive individual action can build collective strength towards the transformational change we need to ensure our health and wellbeing. Will you join us?
Solutions to the climate emergency involves whole-of-system changes. But the individual actions we take are crucial. Four DEA doctors at the frontline of care speak on the steps they and their communities are taking for a healthier and more resilient future.
DEA believes that the flaws in the EPBC Act are too significant to be addressed by amendments alone. A new generation of environmental law is needed to restore past damage and cope with the scale of future challenges. This law must provide the Commonwealth with the powers it needs to fulfil a greater leadership role in the protection of Australia’s environment, as compared with the current situation where much of this task is left to the states and territories
Relying on fossil fuel projects to help with a COVID-19 recovery is like planning to recover from a heart attack by adopting a deep-fried diet, or treating diabetes with mountains of sugar, writes Dr John Van Der Kallen.
Yet as we try and restart the economy, we are seeing the expansion of environment and economy-wrecking fossil fuel projects.
For healthy communities, a renewables-led recovery is what this doctor - and everyday Australians, economists, energy experts, scientists and the like -ordered.
Doctors for the Environment Australia appreciates the contribution of all members. If you renew your membership each year, that is a valued contribution.
If you’re looking to do more, this short brochure lists the many additional ways in which you can make a difference, including opportunities to engage with like-minded colleagues.
Although natural gas is often seen as a ‘clean’ fuel, this is a myth. All gas-burning appliances produce pollutants. Our latest fact sheet examines the health impacts of indoor gas use and to how to reduce the risks. It also lists five major recommendations to reduce the negative impacts of gas on our homes, our planet and our hip pockets.
Dr Trudi Beck says she knows that coronavirus is no small matter, and as a doctor, she takes it as seriously as anyone can. But, Dr Beck writes, "I also want to urge our leaders to take the climate crisis equally seriously. As a doctor and a mother, I'm deeply concerned about, the increasing climate threat, and the rapidly closing window we have to safeguard our future as a society, and that of our children."