"Congratulations to the Medical Journal of Australia for emphasising the role of health professionals in needing to lead by example towards a sustainable future," write Drs Eugenie Kayak, Forbes McGain and Hayden Burch in their letter to the editor. "Talley's editorial encourages health care professionals to reduce health care's own carbon footprint and pollution...”
"In a future where climate change looms large as a threat to health and where our primary disease burden is shaped by lifestyle and environment, shouldn’t we place health front and centre of our COVID-19 economic recovery and dare to reimagine our cities and energy systems, that our children might have a healthy future?" asks GP and DEA Honorary Secretary Dr Richard Yin.
Given Australia’s rich natural endowment, Northern Territory GP Dr Rosalie Schultz asks: why was Australia missing in action during the recent United Nations Biodiversity Summit? If, as our representatives stated at the Summit, we cannot adopt biodiversity protection because it is inconsistent with our policy direction, then we must urgently change course.
The latest edition of DEA's popular podcast is now available! Join hosts Drs Kaiya Ferguson and Karin English talk to author and journalist Paddy Manning about Body Count. This book puts a human face on the climate crisis: the personal stories of tragedy and loss, resilience and hope. Body Count features many DEA members!!
Inclusion of a grant in the federal budget for Vales Point power station is an outrageous misuse of public funds, says Doctors for the Environment Australia's spokesperson Dr Ben Ewald. Rather than a grant, pollution fees for this NSW power station would be more appropriate given the risks it poses to health.
Doctors for the Environment Australia commends England's National Health Service (NHS) commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, and calls on the Australian health sector to likewise commit to a net-zero target.
The approval of the Narrabri gas project has failed to adequately consider the health risks and it should have been rejected, according to medical doctors.
Several doctors speak powerfully about their lived experiences of the summer's horror bushfires--both from a personal perspective and also professionally. For Drs Kim Loo, Michelle Hamrosi and Trudi Beck, the human toll of the climate crisis has pushed them to become active and join climate advocacy groups such as DEA.
The health of the planet and human health are intimately linked and putting public money into climate-wrecking fossil fuels such as gas is one road map we don't want to follow, writes Dr Anna Seth. Passive hope is not enough, however. We need to respond to the climate emergency as we would to a disaster, because it is. Show children you care about their future by supporting today's School Strike 4 Climate action.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As winter temperatures set in and Victorians reach for the heating dial, doctors have warned that home gas appliances can cause health problems, including carbon monoxide poisoning, for residents.
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."
DEA doctors across the nation from a wide range of specialities are experiencing fundamental changes and challenges in their work practices and expectations. GPs are screening and consulting patients in their clinic car parks; interns are working in COVID clinics; “front line” emergency department, intensive care and anaesthetic doctors are planning, training and caring for patients under situations that were unimaginable 4-6 weeks ago.
Putting aside the inadequacies of government in addressing climate change, many Australians are coming to recognise that the fate of the planet resides mainly in numerous corporate board rooms, writes Dr David Shearman. The recent Santos AGM is one battleground for our future.
New figures showing worsening sulphur dioxide air pollution from three NSW coal-fired power stations must be met with tighter license conditions on power plants to reduce the significant risks to the health of millions of people in Sydney and across the state, says medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia.
The coronavirus pandemic should lead us to consider the importance of science and the environment, writes Dr Graeme McLeay.
There are clear parallels with society’s response to the summer’s bushfires and the coronavirus outbreak--and as a community, we must work together, says Dr Arnagretta Hunter.
We are distressed to cancel iDEA2020, however we cannot host an event like this during a global pandemic of this magnitude and risk. We are grateful to our extraordinary speakers, the remarkable organising committee, ANU Climate Change Institute, and to those who have registered for our event. DEA will offer a refund of the conference fee.
Dr Marion Carey writes that with an estimated 40% of insect species now threatened with extinction, we can all do more to notice and appreciate our wonderful native bees and give them a helping hand- and with so little effort also comes great personal reward.
After two decades of refusal to acknowledge the science of climate change, change, it has taken a national bushfire tragedy for policy-makers to wake-up, writes Dr John Iser
The commitment by the ALP to a target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050 is a welcome sign that Australia may eventually join 73 other countries in doing so, but it doesn't go far enough, states DEA's national co-chair Professor Kingsley Faulkner.
Doctors have today slammed the Morrison government’s proposed $11m grant to Vales Point coal-fired power station, as the money to prolong the life of this ageing coal fired-power station is likely to exacerbate harmful pollution reaching the large population centre of Sydney, especially in summer when north easterly winds are common.
Dear Premier Gutwein, Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) is alarmed at the resumption of old growth logging in the North West of Tasmania, as it imperils community health. We urge the State Government to cancel plans to log coupes in the takayna/Tarkine bio-region including Que Road, and for future forestry operations there to be suspended. There is no justification for ongoing logging in the face of the climate crisis and accelerating loss of forests to bushfire and other human activities.
Doctors are demanding that the NSW Government abandons its bill to change the law so that the emissions from burning fossil fuels outside NSW no longer need to be taken into account when approving new coal and gas projects.
Dear Mr Kaeser, As a company committed to health and sustainability, Siemens’ decision to provide rail signalling for the Adani coal mine is deeply disappointing. We, the undersigned, urge you to restore our trust in your company by reconsidering your decision on the Adani contract. The world does not need another coal mine. Coal is a major contributor to climate change, which the health sector has determined to be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.
Canberra Cardiologist, Dr Arnagretta Hunter, provides an insight into how the fires are impacting both her personal and professional worlds.
To Scott Morrison, like everyone else in Australia, and increasingly around the world, I have spent the past couple of months in horrified disbelief at the scale of the bushfire emergency. The loss of life, devastation of ecosystems, decimation of wildlife and destruction of property are genuinely beyond comprehension – we simply have nothing to compare these events to, and consequently it is almost impossible to process. I am deeply saddened and increasingly frightened about the future. And beyond donating to fundraising efforts, I feel helpless in my capacity to meaningfully contribute in the face of this ongoing tragedy. But as a citizen of this country, I can write to you and your Coalition colleagues and share my views.
The climate emergency has arrived, writes Dr Michael Schien. With the first degree of the predicted four degrees of warming by 2100, this 11,000 kilometre fire front is stretching our capacity to respond, while weeks of smoke have replaced the clean air that our forests usually provide us for free. Positive change means facing at least two major issues.
Speaking to The New Daily, psychiatrist Dr Robert Llewellyn-Jones and Honorary Secretary Dr Richard Yin highlight that climate change impacts such as Australia's unprecedented fires not only have direct physical impacts- they also affect our mental health.
As the fires continue to burn across eastern Australia, DEA's Honorary Secretary Dr Richard Yin and DEA member Dr George Crisp, write the full scale of the health impacts and the capacity of health services to adequately respond is emerging--doctors on the frontline who are working in evacuation centres report they are dealing with up to 1000 evacuees, with very little equipment or support. Scientists have long predicted the compounding effects of climate change, yet plans for adaptation and mitigation have been inadequate . It is time we accept the science and the challenge before us and take urgent action on the climate crisis.
Australia’s climate is changing, writes DEA's ACT Chair Dr Arnagretta Hunter in The Conversation, and we’re likely to experience longer periods of hot temperatures, with hotter summers and some extraordinarily high temperatures. This will test our health, especially those of older members in the community, and our health-care systems. Understanding the challenge ahead can help to reduce the risks.
The dawn of the New Year and new decade in a very favoured country ought to be greeted with positive anticipation and firm new resolutions. Yet our thoughts are with all Australians that are suffering so much loss and distress across the nation. Much of our country is in a prolonged drought and on fire and the world is in great environmental and geo-political peril. Governments at home and abroad have not heeded the most authoritative scientific evidence and advice available. Many influential politicians and media commentators remain climate change sceptics. It gives no pleasure to observe that what DEA and so many other scientific bodies and organisations have been predicting and working hard over decades to minimise is becoming a reality.
French daily newspaper, Libération, interviewed DEA's co-chair Dr Eugenie Kayak about the health impacts of the hazardous smoke pollution in Sydney from the NSW bushfires, which have for weeks ravaged the east coast of Australia. Exposure to smoke pollution is known to increase the incidence of lung and heart diseases. Dr Kayak said that while official health impact figures will not be known until the end of the bushfire season, it's expected that the figures will be alarming.
DEA congratulates the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) in declaring climate change a health emergency. The RACGP has joined other major medical colleges and organisations in raising the alarm over the current and growing impact of climate change.
As Australians this week brace for a nationwide heatwave which could see temperatures approach 50 degrees in some areas, Dr Arnagretta Hunter says that while people have lived with such high temperatures, worsening climate change could test our biological limits over the coming years.
Doctors for the Environment Australia is today joining a coalition of Australia’s major health and medical groups in declaring hazardous air pollution from bushfire smoke in Sydney and other areas in NSW a public health emergency. The groups are also linking the fires to climate change.
Doctors for the Environment Australia is horrified by the reaction of the Morrison government to the unprecedented public health threat from the hazardous air pollution in Sydney and surrounds which has been triggered by the bushfires, reports the SMH. DEA is calling for the Morrison government to transition Australia from its reliance on fossil fuels- a main driver of the climate emergency that is increasing and intensifying these fires.
Doctors for the Environment Australia calls for a federally coordinated national meeting to direct action in response to the unprecedented public health threat from months of bushfire smoke in eastern Australia. DEA fears exposure will potentially affect the health and wellbeing of up to ten million people in both the short and longer term.
With the early start to our bushfire season, widespread fires burning across the country with tragic loss of life and property, and a number of areas breaking November heat records, three medical colleges, the RACP, ACEM and ACRRM representing tens of thousands of doctors recently declared climate change a health emergency, writes DEA's Hon Secretary Dr Richard Yin. They join the AMA and DEA which this year also declared a climate health emergency. The clear message to our leaders is that the time to act on the climate crisis is now.
Alexander Downer, a former leader of the Liberal Party , Minister for Foreign Affairs and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, wrote in the Australian Financial Review last Monday (18 Nov) that climate leadership would be expensive “virtue signalling”, that climate change has become a highly “emotional issue”, and rational discussion has been abandoned. He describes climate change as the Rubik’s cube of politics and asks us to join with him in “connecting the squares” to understand what is going on. Dr Graeme McLeay writes: Let us look then, rationally of course, at some of the claims he makes.
We are thrilled to announce that Denise Cauchi OAM has commenced this week as Executive Director for DEA.
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) welcomes the statements made by Shadow Minister for Health Chris Bowen that Australia needs to develop policies and structures to prepare for the health impacts of climate change. As Mr Bowen states in a Guardian article, "...despite the fact we [Australia] are more exposed than most, and our medical community is increasingly vocal on the issue, from Doctors for the Environment, to the Australian Medical Association, which recently declared climate change to be a health emergency”, we have no national strategy.
Doctors demand that the federal government takes immediate action to protect Australians from the unprecedented risks to their health from climate change, in response to a major new report published today.
Doctors for the Environment Australia calls on the national offshore oil and gas regulator to reject Equinor's plan to use a banned toxic chemical dispersant for an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight, as it would place response workers and local communities at risk of serious illness.
From letters to the editor to feature articles about doctors stepping out to join the School Strike for Climate, this month's edition of Medical Forum shows DEA's WA members are a force to be reckoned with in the fight against climate change.
Tasmanian doctors have today called for an urgent halt to destructive logging of the Sumac forests of the takayna/Tarkine, as conservationists step up protests against proposed logging in the area. Medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia says that damage to the takayna/Tarkine is not only an environmental issue but one which affects the health and wellbeing of all Tasmanians.
It is extraordinary that Energy Minister Angus Taylor continues to cling to a fossil fuel past at a time when Australia’s emissions are still rising and the urgency required for global action on climate change mounts, writes Dr Graeme McLeay. What we really need is the Energy Minister and his government to see the tremendous opportunities in sun, wind and wave and to steer our country towards a clean energy future that doesn’t cost our health, our planet or our pockets.
Is there no end to the contention by climate change sceptics, who report in The Australian, that action is useless and that adaptation will see us through? asks Dr John Iser in his Letter to the Editor which as far as we know has not been published. As he states, the media’s role is to shed light on truth, not to obfuscate it; to challenge power, not be beholden to it.
Dr Sujata Allan says that in her practice, she has already seen the toll a warming planet has taken on her patients. She states there is widespread concern about global heating among the medical profession, medical colleges, the AMA and other groups, and urges a co-ordinated national strategy to prepare our towns, communities, and health practices for climate change impacts.
Medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia will attend Origin Energy’s AGM on Wednesday to raise the alarm about the risks of NT fracking on public health. Spokesperson for DEA, Dr Helen Redmond, says the evidence against fracking is clear and there should be no further development of onshore gas in Australia.
The effects of coal mining are not only physical, they're also emotional, writes Dr Bob Vickers. In the Hunter Valley, thermal coal mining is creating an adversarial culture in coal communities as both those against and for continued mining advocate for a future that they believe will best look after themselves and their families.
The Launch of the new Centre for Population raised a flicker of hope of a remit to develop a population policy for Australia - but the hope was fleeting, writes Dr David Shearman. The proposal makes no mention of the constraints of climate change, water scarcity or the concept of sustainability, which are crucial to the long term maintenance of our present population and indeed the projected increase of between 37 and 49 million people by 2066.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has slammed a proposed coal mine in Tasmania's Midlands on health grounds, warning it could contaminate the clean soil, air and water of surrounding areas and lead to more climate change whose harmful impacts the island state is already seeing.
Climate change is difficult to ignore when medical authorities declare a climate health emergency, defence experts are concerned, insurance and business are sounding the alarm bells and children and their supporters are taking to the streets in historic numbers to call for urgent action, writes Dr Graeme McLeay. Yet, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the UN last week, he said everyone had it wrong about Australia. The question is: when will our PM "get" the science and the need to act?
Dr Ingo Weber, the lead organiser of DEA's campaign No Time For Games, explains why doctors joined the global climate strike on 20 September which saw more than 300,000 Australians and millions of people around the world take to the streets in support of young people and their call for action on climate.
Doctors will today take to the streets in cities and towns across Australia in support of the anticipated thousands of Australian school students who will miss classes to call for urgent policies to contain climate change, which threatens their future existence if left unchecked. Medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia says climate change is the biggest risk to public health in human history and young people, who are especially vulnerable given their developing bodies and longer life years, have good reason to speak out.
Doctors will today gather at Parliament House, Canberra, to deliver Greg Hunt thousands of pledges from major medical colleges and health professionals demanding urgent action on climate change for the sake of our children. Inside Parliament, Zali Steggall OAM MP will move a motion that supports No Time For Games, a national children's campaign by DEA. The motion, seconded by Helen Haines MP, recognises that human-induced climate change is one of the biggest and most urgent health threats to children, and urges the government to decarbonise by 2050 to reduce the intensity and occurrence of extreme weather events.
On Monday 16 September, DEA will deliver thousands of pledges calling for immediate bipartisan action on climate change which impacts on children most to the Minister for Health Greg Hunt MP, despite his unavailability to meet them . Speakers at the event outside Parliament House will include Senior Australian of the Year 2019 and Paediatrician Dr Sue Packer OA, Mark Butler MP, Zali Steggall MP and Andrew Wilkie MP. The pledges have been endorsed by The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), the Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians (ACSEP) the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), and more than 2000 health professionals, including Professor Fiona Stanley AC.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has today applauded the AMA’s declaration that climate change is a health emergency, describing it as a major milestone that firmly acknowledges the toll that rising global temperatures is having on health as well as the urgency in addressing the climate crisis. In its statement, the AMA says it has joined other health organisations around the world – including the American Medical Association, the British Medical Association, and Doctors for the Environment Australia-in making the declaration.
Labor is all over the shop on climate change, writes Dr David Shearman. Labor's national president, Wayne Swan, is preaching that the party must stay on "the right side of history" and stick to ambitious carbon targets. This is even as Senator Penny Wong stated in response to pleas from Pacific Island nations that an ALP federal government would not ban new coal mines, and as Labor's Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk expressed pride in coal exports. Talking down the impact of Australia's coal in effect puts Labor in support of a government policy that invites climate catastrophe.
Labor is all over the shop on climate change. This week its national president, Wayne Swan, is preaching that the party must stay on "the right side of history" and stick to ambitious carbon targets. He speaks out even as Labor's Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, expresses pride in coal exports.
THE NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) recently decided on the Dartbrook underground coal mine, writes Dr Bob Vickers. In its decision, they approved the mine to continue operations until 2022, but did not support a five-year extension recommended by the NSW Department of Planning. In the words of the IPC, this project "would not be in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development or inter-generational equity; and, as such, is not in the public interest".
A normal week, another loss of koala habitat for new housing estates, of forest to provide jobs in the logging industry, of land clearance for gas development and agriculture. As Dr David Shearman writes, the litany of destruction is relentless. Australia is participating in a worldwide biodiversity crisis, in which thousands of species are threatened or have become extinct. The climate emergency is the main cause, but there are many others which emanate from economic growth and its consumption of natural resources.
"It is about time that Chris Kenny was pilloried for distorting the truth on renewable energy (The Australian August 12)," Dr John Iser wrote in a Letter to the Editor submitted to the Australian which we understand was not published.
Dr Ben Ewald told the Guardian that there were places in Australia that had a serious SO2 (sulphur dioxide) problem and limits were set well above what was needed to protect human health. The comments followed a Greenpeace report using satellite data to analyse the world’s worst sources of sulphur dioxide pollution, one of the main pollutants contributing to deaths from air pollution worldwide.
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) is seeking a dynamic, experienced Executive Director (ED) to drive the next phase of development in pursuit of its Mission, “ Protecting health through care of the environment”. DEA is a health organisation run by volunteer doctors, whose activities are supported by an administrative officer and communications and media manager. DEA is rapidly expanding its membership and influence, in response to the growing impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on human health.
We are confronted daily in the media with the deadly results of crashes on our roads and the tragedy that befalls those involved, writes Dr Graeme McLeay. Seat belts, improved vehicle design, drink driving legislation and other measures have seen the number of road deaths decline from a high in 1970 of almost 3,800 to 1,137 in 2018. This figure is still too high and much effort is made to reduce it. There is, however, another menace on our roads which is largely ignored - exposure to traffic pollution.
We all have a right to breathe clean air. However, if you live, work and play in an area with a lot of traffic or near coal-fired power stations the air can get pretty foul. Ambient air pollution contributes to over 3000 premature deaths each year in Australia, and thousands more suffer a range of diseases including asthma - children are especially vulnerable. Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos AM and President of the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group Martin Wurt speak on Life Matters about how airborne pollutants are making us sick. They call on the environment ministers who are currently reviewing our outdated air quality laws to adopt international best practice.
Blue skies, rolling surf, blazing sun- these are some of the images people think of when they think of Australia, writes Dr Marianne Cannon. But it is the latter, the endless days of hot sunshine that are harming us, both young and old, in increasing numbers. Last summer was the hottest on record, and projections are that heatwaves will be getting more frequent and intense. As heatwaves increase the pressure on accident and emergency units, many emergency physicians are seriously worried about how hospitals are going to cope. But there are solutions open to us, and they are achievable.
Doctors are calling for stronger national air pollution standards to limit dangerous pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone in ambient air. Air pollution currently causes over 3000 premature and preventable deaths per year in Australia, as well as contributing to asthma, heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia is urging environment ministers to tighten air pollution standards to protect health, and to bring standards in line with international best practice.
"You’re at home with your family on the sofa. Despite being surrounded by loved ones, melancholy is rising within you. Why? Outside the weather is no longer how it used to be. The seasons hardly resemble themselves. You turn on the television and it’s the usual: The Great Barrier Reef is in a state of crisis; polar ice caps are melting. Home in both the immediate sense and the whole planet is changing. How do you feel? Isolated? Depressed? Longing for a different time?” There’s a word for this: solastalgia. GP, George Crisp, says he's seeing it in his practice.
At a recent Climate Change Institute event ANU academic Professor Neil Gunningham commented that no government in the world has been genuinely honest with its population about the full challenge of climate change and its likely consequences, writes Dr Arnagretta Hunter. In Australia this is true to an almost extreme level, with politicians actively campaigning to support the coal industry, and an extraordinary deliberate defunding of climate change research for both adaptation and mitigation.
The arrest of French journalist Hugo Clément has served the international community interest to recognise the harm being caused to them by Australian policy, says Dr David Shearman. This harm is well recognised by our island neighbours but they are inconsequential to the Australian Government. More important are the views of countries which accept their share of the climate change burden and the tourists from Europe and other major countries who may well view Mr Hugo’s documentaries when considering holidays in Queensland.
Prime time current affairs program, The Project, on Network Ten today featured a segment on air pollution. The program highlighted the harms from the emissions of traffic vehicles ahead of a revision of Australia's air quality standards which are well over due. Dr Ben Ewald emphasised dirty air is especially harmful to children and that many of our young people would not have asthma if one of the worst air pollutants, nitrogen dioxide, was capped at 9 parts per billion.
Keeping The Lights On
DEA’s annual conference empowers medical professionals and medical students from across Australia and beyond to skill up, get motivated and to address the biggest challenge and opportunity facing doctors today— the human health impacts of the environment and climate change.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) commends the AMA for listing ‘Climate change and health’ as one of their Key Health Issues for the 2019 Federal Election.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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 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.
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.
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.
While the rich get richer, not only do the poor get poorer but the environment continues to suffer, writes Dr David Shearman.
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.
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
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.....
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.
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.
Professor Susan Prescott, a West Australian paediatric immunologist, believes doctors must be involved in political action on climate change for the sake of future generations.
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.
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.
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.
With the Victorian election coming up on November 24th, the DEA Victorian committee has considered what would DEA prescribe for a positive healthy outcome for our environment and population? The resulting “Prescription for a Healthy Victoria 2018” document is available here with a simple list of asks and recommendations.
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-->
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-->
2ser-FM's Jess Klajman spoke with Dr Sujata Allan about Doctors for the Environment Australia. Central to the discussion was that DEA's core work is to highlight the clear link between healthy families and communities and a healthy environment. 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 -->
DEA members Dr Helen Redmond, Dr Geralyn McCarron and Prof Melissa Haswell recently spoke at a public health forum on coal seam gas exploration and the potentially serious damage this can have on health. The timely event took place in Narrabri, NSW, which is the centre of a proposed $3 billion gas operation. Dr McCarron and Prof Haswell were interviewed on Prime7 about their concerns. 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.
Doctors are making a last minute plea to politicians at tomorrow’s Coalition party room meeting to reject proposals underwriting investment on new coal power plants in exchange for support of the NEG national power plan, as this hazardous fuel would lead to more deaths and illness.
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.
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.
As various political parties increase their electioneering efforts in today's Super Saturday by-elections in Brisbane, north-west Tasmania, Perth, Fremantle and the Adelaide Hills, DEA doctors in South Australia list the vital issues for Mayo in a poignant letter to the Adelaide Advertiser. Read more HERE.
THE Coalition’s rush to implement the National Energy Guarantee looks set to lock in a continued reliance on fossil fuels for our energy-- despite clean alternatives, writes DEA's Dr Rohan Church. While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull may claim to be "technology-agnostic" when it comes to securing our energy, it's impossible to remain agnostic when faced with the significant disease burden from coal-fired power generation. Read more HERE.
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.
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.
Amid so much news of regulatory failure when it comes to protecting planetary health, at least some positive developments are on the way in Victoria, according to Dr John Iser, the Victorian chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia. He suggests there has been a “fundamental shift in ethos” at Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA), to position the organisation as “a strong protector of human health resulting directly from environmental damage” – pointing the way for establishment of a national EPA. Read more in Croakey.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio presented the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 document to the Victorian Parliament on 22 June. DEA is very encouraged that the Vic Department of the Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the EPA is now linking health with the environment in its deliberations. DEA has been working on enhancing recognition of the vital link between health and the environment over the last few years at numerous meetings and briefings with both the EPA and government policy makers, and through our submission to the EPA Vic Independent Inquiry.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
At the IDEA conference in Newcastle Dr Steve Robinson received an award for exceptional dedication to DEA and our values in the Gloucester region of NSW. The citation at the presentation is included here...
A joint statement addressed to energy ministers meeting at COAG by 150 concerned GPs, emergency doctors, public health physicians, paediatricians, physicians, surgeons, medical students and other health specialists.
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).
Australia’s doctors will meet in Newcastle, NSW, this weekend to discuss how they can protect the community from pollution, climate change impacts such as heatwaves and other environmental hazards.
When I joined Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) some years ago, I couldn’t understand why they were silent on the topic of food. After all, even by conservative estimates, the production of the world’s food is responsible for the majority of land degradation, biodiversity loss and fresh water use, and for around one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Read why the silence
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.
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.
While it’s a good bet that developing such a major national initiative will, at best, be a long, slow and arduous process, it is true that (to quote Laozi): “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. What is also clear is that “business as usual” is not a viable option for the future economy, defence and health of Australia”
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Australians are among the biggest meat eaters in the world. We consume a staggering 90kg per person each year, or around 250g per day. Reducing the amount of meat we eat is a vital part of looking after our health.
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.
The Rockefeller Lancet Commission on Planetary Health- Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch describes planetary health as the health of human civilisation and the natural systems on which it depends.
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.
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.
iDEA is the annual national conference of Doctors for the Environment Australia. Bringing together medical professionals and students from across Australia and beyond, iDEA unites people with one common goal – to address the human health impacts of the environment and climate change.
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.
While most Australians look forward to summer holidays, those in bushfire-prone areas must prepare for fires. Personal safety is a priority, along with protecting property.
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.
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.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has today applauded the rejection of the Rocky Hill open cut coalmine proposal near Gloucester.
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.
Last week, Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (Europe) announced the results of their annual survey of countries’ climate change action throughout the world.
On election day tomorrow, many people in Queensland will vote for political parties that support the opening of new coal-fired power plants (the LNP and One Nation).
The Coalition’s National Energy Guarantee plan could see an extra 15,000 premature deaths over the next ten years, doctors warn ahead of the COAG meeting on energy in Hobart on Friday.
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).
By Edward Stoios
The Queensland election is upon us. And most minds are on; jobs, jobs, jobs and the economy, after which it’s education and, finally, health care.
Australian health experts have written to all State and Territory leaders ahead of the COAG meeting this week, strongly urging them to reject the National Energy Guarantee, and establish national energy policies that will reduce the alarming rates of sickness and deaths across the nation.
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.
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 so-called diesel-gate scandal where the Volkswagen Group was caught out cheating United States’ emission controls is well known, but less recognised is that Australia has a vehicle and fuel emissions problem as a result of a lax regulatory framework.
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.
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.
Fears of an early start to warm weather have prompted doctors, led by a former Australian of the Year, to call for greater extreme heat preparedness to reduce illness and deaths, as well as the pressure on the health care system.
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.
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”.
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.
One would think that proposed new rules designed to make cars go further on less fuel and to produce less toxic tailpipe emissions, at the same time reducing Australia’s high per capita greenhouse gas contribution, would be welcome. Not with everyone it seems. Articles appeared in the press in early July with motor industry bodies claiming proposed new rules were a “carbon tax on cars” and new cars would cost $5,000 more. Josh Frydenberg on radio the next day very quickly denied any changes to existing rules.
“True to his calling”
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility must include potential short and long term health risks when assessing projects, ensuring those like the Adani coal mine are properly assessed and don’t pose a significant health risk to the community.
We need to do more to reduce waste in medicine, writes GP Dr Richard Yin.
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.
GP Nicole Sleeman, like an increasing number of young health professionals, is becoming desperate about the failure to address climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.
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.
“High-profile doctors say Carmichael coalmine poses a ‘grave danger to public health’, including from air pollution and black lung disease.”
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.
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.
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Doctors for the Environment Australia calls for proper implementation of the pollution license fee system for NSW power stations to protect public health.
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.
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.
By Dr Andrew Jeremijenko
On the evening of April 10, a hose in the Qantas hangar at Brisbane Airport leaked approximately 5,000 litres of firefighting chemicals into nearby waterways. The foamy spill made its way from the airport to the nearby Boggy Creek via a drain, then to the lower reaches of the Brisbane River and north to Nudgee Beach and Shorncliffe dispersed by the tides and wind.
The spill of a toxic chemical by Qantas during the Easter holiday is an environmental disaster. The fact that the public were not notified during this holiday season for four days and families have been playing in the water, fishing and eating the fish and other crustaceans from the impacted area borders on negligent.
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.
Immediate Past Vice President of the AMA asks Are Australia’s Emergency Response systems prepared for the Climate Emergency?
Universities and professional organisations must better prepare doctors and medical students to deal with the impacts of climate change, urge Australia’s leading medics.
Doctors are calling for action on climate change, linking it to conditions such as respiratory diseases and childhood illnesses and also highlighting the need for emergency preparedness.
This BBC report on the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine makes the point that it would be one of the biggest mines on the planet with a reference that points graphically to its global impact – “occupying an area nearly three times larger than Paris, where world leaders hammered out a landmark agreement to combat climate change in late 2015”.
I had felt deeply uncomfortable about my contribution to climate change for decades. My electricity and car were powered by fossil fuels. My groceries were trucked and flown in from distant places. My bank invested in coal, oil and gas.
It may be merely symbolic but, for me, our surgery garden is an extension of what we do as doctors. We all know that the major determinants of health sit outside consulting rooms and hospitals so here’s the story of our very own green space.
Congratulations to the Victorian Parliament for finally passing the legislation to ban fracking in the state. Fracking is bad for our health, and an increasing number of reports from the United States show that there are adverse impacts on the health of nearby residents. Importantly, the burning of fossil fuels causes climate change. The increasing frequency of heatwaves, bushfires, floods and severe storms are costing Australians dearly in terms of health and social disruption.
Children living or attending schools close to major roads are exposed to more hazardous air pollution, warn health experts who are calling for sweeping laws to control vehicular emissions and so improve air quality.
In Australia there is exasperation and despair over the federal government’s energy policy. It displays ignorance of the international energy revolution, deceit for political purposes, and negligence for it delays the transition to renewable energy which will save lives and suffering. Australia is now 16th on the list of wealthy OECD countries for clean energy and related initiatives.
Air pollution endangers more lives than road deaths, doctors will tell a Senate Inquiry into the closure of coal-fired power stations on Wednesday.
With the first of RenewWA’s climate forums starting today at Edith Cowan University in W.A., Amy Marshall from Doctors for the Environment goes in to bat for renewable energy.
Air pollution from blowing ash in Port Augusta in SA has become a major issue. This article and others on the topic of coal from the DEA team in SA has failed to be published in the Advertiser (NewsCorp). The dedication of the Australian newspaper and related papers to coal development, clean coal etc is in our view based on incorrect scientific interpretation and carries considerable concerns for individual and world health.
The health impacts of burning fossil fuels should be front and centre in the national debate on the future of the electricity network, writes Adelaide doctor David Shearman.
2017 is not the year for the Victorian EPA to be approving an upgrade of a brown coal power plant, Loy Yang B, allowing the most polluting source of electricity production to continue for a further 30 years.
The Victorian Government has recently completed its comprehensive review of the VIC Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and has committed $45.5 million over the next 18 months to extend its scope and powers, a sizable injection considering the EPAs current annual operating budget of approximately $70 million a year, suggesting a sincere desire by the Government for true reform.
One way of looking at emissions targets is as a fixed budget amount, or quota. This countdown shows one estimate of how long it will take to reach an amount of greenhouse gas emissions beyond which 2C of warming will be likely.
With summer here, the brown, crunchy, lifeless patches on my lawn in Perth remind me that much of Australia is getting hotter and drier. Working in public health, it also reminds me of a call to action – not just for me, but for all of us. Not for more wetting agent and regular watering (although, yes, that will be needed).
The community is paying the cost of polluted air through health problems such as heart disease, lung disease and asthma – largely caused by coal mining and coal-fired power generation. Doctors have made a submission on the NSW Clean Air Plan to urge action to improve health.
I have a New Year message for the medical students who have joined our mission and indeed a message for all members of the medical profession.
It is bushfire season in WA again, and we know the wildfires are getting worse each year. The State Government is trying to ramp up awareness of the bushfire risk and more money is being put into firefighting services. This investment is desperately needed, but it is not nearly enough.
The magnificent old growth forests of East Gippsland are a national treasure. Yet state-endorsed logging continues in this region, undermining the rich tapestry of plants and animals that support human health.
Australia’s increase in greenhouse emissions is freeloading on other countries which are taking action to reduce them.
New South Wales’ big five coal-fired power stations should pay 49 times more than they are paying for the pollution they emit, if we are to substantially improve public health.
As the Australian Government’s climate change policy is struggling for credibility, it is more important than ever that we try to make a difference collectively and as individuals to help minimise global warming. Dr Kim Loo explains how.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should consider his position if he is not prepared to listen with an open mind to the policy advice from the experts at the COAG Leaders meeting on Friday 9 December.
The announcement of a $1 billion loan from the Federal Government and the arrival in Australia this week of the head of Adani suggests Queensland’s giant Carmichael coal mine will go ahead, says former Australian of the Year and leading public health advocate Professor Fiona Stanley who is speaking on behalf of the medical group Doctors for the Environment Australia.
In a state with a history of enlightened decisions, The final report of the South Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into unconventional gas (fracking) in the South East of South Australia the Committee has produced another one.
Doctors have welcomed the interim report of the Senate inquiry into the retirement of coal-fired power stations which was tabled on Monday, however they say it doesn’t go far enough.
After the tragic deaths of eight people related to the recent outbreak of thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne, we need to consider the “perfect storm” of climate change.
The Senate inquiry’s report into the planned closure of coal-fired power stations will no doubt shed light on the compelling health reasons to close them.
DEA member Ralph Lewis has drawn our attention to the program With One Seed, http://withoneseed.org.au/ involving reforestation, carbon capture as well as providing income for local landholders in Timor.
An overview of concerns by DEA member A/Prof Vicki Kotsirilos
The impact of chemicals such as heavy metals and pesticides in the environment on human health is well recognised.1 What is not well recognised is the impact of plastics in the environment on human health.
In what health experts describe as an “embarrassing and shameful” result, Australia has come in as one of the worst performers in an annual assessment of 61 nations’ climate policies, with only Korea, Kazakhstan, Japan and Saudi Arabia ranking worse.
One of the outcomes of the Labor Party’s landslide election win in the Northern Territory earlier this year was a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing of onshore unconventional gas reservoirs (fracking), pending the outcome of an independent inquiry into the practice.
A call for submissions to the inquiry’s terms of reference closed recently, having garnered 364 submissions. One of them was from Doctors for the Environment Australia.
In the post below, Dr Rosalie Schultz and Dr David Shearman, both members of Doctors for the Environment Australia ask the important question of who benefits if fracking is allowed to go ahead in the NT, and give their recommendations for making sure health considerations are front and centre as the inquiry proceeds.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has today welcomed the launch of the Lancet Countdown at the climate talks in Morocco, saying the landmark initiative would put pressure on Australia and other countries to keep the promises they made in the Paris agreement.
The results of the US election are in.
If Donald Trump does to the environment what he said he would do as President, the hard-fought progress to protect our ailing planet looks set to take a giant leap backwards- just at the crucial time when we need to take giant leap forwards to ensure our survival. The Lancet has described climate change as the biggest health threat of the 21st century.
Doctors fear the SA State Government’s doubling of the air pollution cap signifies a possible “sell-out” to the gas industry, further undermining Australia’s already poor reputation at the first meeting of world leaders under the Paris agreement in Morocco starting this week.
The climate change talks in Marrakech which start this week will put a spotlight on Australia’s poor contribution to the Paris agreement to keep world global average temperatures below 2 degrees.
Many salutory lessons arise from this fascinating account of the role of health and medical expertise in the successful closure of polluting power stations in South Australia.
Medicine in the early decades of the 21st century offers great promise, powered by ready access to knowledge, innovative imaging and interventional technologies, sophisticated research, and personalised pharmaceuticals. Despite this, doctors of the next decades will be faced with unique national and global challenges that they are currently ill equipped to deal with.
Peter Brooks recounts a very personal account of his recent trip – sailing in the footsteps of Franklin – with the stark impact of climate change on the Arctic and its populations.