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.
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.
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 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 They call on the environment ministers who are currently reviewing our outdated air quality laws to adopt international best practice.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.....
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 -->
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 -->
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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/
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
DEA expressed alarm after learning that a major Australian hospital had publicly backed a proposed coal mine.
“High-profile doctors say Carmichael coalmine poses a ‘grave danger to public health’, including from air pollution and black lung disease.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mike Baird has said his decision to overturn the ban on greyhound dog racing shows he is prepared to admit when his government has got it wrong. If this is true, it’s time he admitted he is wrong about his support of coal mining and take back his “no doubt coal is good” statement.
THE Federal Government and state Liberals are demanding that Jay Weatherill’s Government should reopen the Port Augusta coal-fired power station.
GLOUCESTER is a rural area in the foothills of the World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops National Park which has a pristine environment of high ecological significance. It is inconceivable that an open cut mine that aims to extract 21 million tonnes of coal is planned for these parts, and will be within two kilometres of residential areas – places where people live and bring up families.
Editorial by Patrick Walker, the Doctus Project
It is a bright, sunny afternoon in May, and Victoria’s hottest Autumn on record is drawing to a close. My colleague Jesse Schnall and I are waiting to meet with Dr John Iser, the Victorian Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA). DEA is a voluntary organisation made up of medical doctors from around Australia to address the threat climate change and environmental degradation pose to health. They work ‘to address…the diseases caused by damage to the Earth’s environment.’
Having both read the now famous 2009 Lancet report which concluded that climate change is the biggest threat to global health in the 21st century, we are intrigued to see what Dr Iser has to say on the issue. Does climate change really pose such a threat to our health? And if so, what should we – and our government – be doing about it?
There is much discussion in the medical and general media about the healthiness of food. Hardly surprising, as we face an unfolding epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases which, along with inactivity, are in large part related to our dietary excess.
ADELAIDE has just experienced a record-breaking heatwave for December, with regional areas facing even higher temperatures than the city. While the much-needed cool change brought temporary relief, scientific evidence indicates we must brace for more of these events.
With the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) now underway, Associate Professor Linda Selvey’s Perspectives article on the health impacts of global warming in the Medical Journal of Australia is both timely and compelling.
Doctors for the Environment Australia’s launch of an open letter calling for Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley to attend the United Nations Paris climate summit this December was today reported, among other media, in major Fairfax mastheads, including the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.
Parents, Grandparents and Concerned Adults: SIGN THE OPEN LETTER
Support Our Call For The Health Minister To Attend The Paris Meeting On Climate Change This December- And Put The Health Of Our Children Front And Centre
Coal interests are over-represented on the board of the Minerals Council of Australia, and they continue to promote the so-called benefits of coal to a largely compliant government even when the evidence points the other way, argues journalist Mike Seccombe in this Saturday Paper feature article.
Along with denting its share price and reputation, Volkswagen may have inadvertently helped address one of the most neglected and insidious public health problems of our time.
One of Australia’s biggest industry funds, First State Super, recently announced it was is divesting its socially responsible funds from all companies that source more than 20 per cent of their operating revenue from coal, oil and gas.
The Australian Financial Review’s Amanda Saunders wrote a story which in part credited DEA for its involvement in the initiative. She wrote: “doctors who pushed for the move say they have a “moral imperative” to support the transition to a renewable economy” and that divestment is “a public health measure”.
A group of leading doctors, many of them grandparents, has called for action on a threat they say needs priority attention. The doctors say failure to act on this threat means we are failing in the most “fundamental call of humanity” – that is, to nurture its young.
GPs and specialists need to train and prepare for the “inevitable increase” in childhood sickness and pressure on health services linked to climate change, leading epidemiologist Professor Fiona Stanley says.
Introduction by Croakey journalist, Marie McInerney
Treasurer Joe Hockey copped quite a lampooning when he raised the prospect of people living until they are 150 to explain why Australians should accept cuts to government benefits and pay a greater share of their health costs.
But Dr George Crisp says we all are too happy to accept the idea that longevity still will steadily increase, as it has over the past century.
Climate change has now become a major health issue and delaying action is “grossly irresponsible”, argues the chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia and former president of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Professor Kingsley Faulkner, in this feature story in the March 2015 edition of Surgical News.
The two momentous decisions of the week came from the Guardian newspaper.
The UK Guardian launched a campaign of science and conscience to reverse humanity’s self-destructive pursuit of burning all of the world’s fossil fuels: and in Australia Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre was published.
I AM lucky enough to live and work in a beautiful area of bushland on Melbourne’s urban fringe.
Health experts around the world are warning against the exploration and mining of unconventional gas reserves- for example, the UK’s chief scientific adviser Mark Walport, advised in his recent annual report that fracking could carry unforeseen risks in the same way that thalidomide, asbestos and tobacco did.
The following article published by Independent Australia (7/4/14) appears here under Creative Commons licence.
The importance of indoor plants for improving air quality and contributing positively to our psychological wellbeing has implications for the health system both within hospitals and in the private system. The following article was first published at the Conversation and appears here under a Creative Commons licence.It is useful information for both our own occupational health and that of our staff and patients.
Barney Foran always writes a perceptive article and we invite you to read this one from The Conversation in the context of the recent report indicating that climate change will have a devastating impact on plants and animals world wide.
The evidence of damage to the Great Barrier Reef continues to mount. This article by Andrew Jeremijenko provides further documentation. DEA has worked behind the scenes on this issue, corresponding with UNESCO on the impacts of coal mining on the catchments and the reef and by writing to Minister Burke.
It is encouraging to see that the European Commission has many policies and actions on biodiversity and this editorial from “Science for Environment Policy” is republished with thanks.
Anti-coal protester Jonathan Moylan has said the main reason for his ANZ sharemarket hoax was his concern about the health impacts of coal mining at Maules Creek. He stressed the impact of the mine on children’s health and on the climate. He also believed that ANZ was investing unethically.
The following article first appeared at The Conversation and appears here under a Creative Commons licence.
It is estimated that global population reached seven billion in late 2011 or early 2012. As global population has doubled since the 1960s, per capita GDP has grown to more than ten times what it was then. The human impact has grown to such a scale that it has become a major geophysical force. It is not surprising that concerns about the number of people the Earth can support have re-emerged recently. Attempts to define an upper limit of the number of people that the Earth could support are inevitably subject to considerable uncertainty, however, the greatest concentration estimates falls between 8 and 16 billion people — a range we are fast approaching. While there are many ways we might reduce our per capita impact on the planet, the collective impact will always be multiplied by global population, making population an issue which cannot be ignored. Read the Full report
This article by Sturt Rosewarne and Linda Connor summarises the economic and occupational aspects of the industry. Our position is detailed in a briefing paper and in a policy paper We thank the authors and the Conversation for permission to publish under creative commons”e
Doctors for the Environment Australia made a submission to this Inquiry which was prepared by Dr Marion Carey. The Report is now available and its findings are discussed by Dr Eugenie Kayak
Doctors for the Environment Australia is publishing this article by Daniel Palmer because it raises some of the issues that we are increasingly likely to encounter in our advocacy for action on climate change. We thank the author and Climate Spectator for permission to publish
The World Health Organisation has concluded that “Diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer (sufficient evidence) and also noted a positive association (limited evidence) with an increased risk of bladder cancer” This is yet another compelling reason why subsidies for the use of diesel fuel should be stopped particularly in the resource industries. The article “Creating a stink about traffic pollution” reviews the dangers from traffic pollution and we thank the authors, Adrian Barnett, Joacim Rockov and Nicholas Graves and the Conversation for permission to republish the article Creating a stink about traffic pollution under creative commons…
Having had a Senate Inquiry into CSG which attracted many expert submissions and produced a bipartisan report the states produce their own take on the science; it is a wasteful, confused system with little consideration of human health. It is now the turn of Victoria
The patients suffered from nervous excitability, with buzzing noises in the ear, giddiness, and neuralgic pains … in some cases …objective lesions, such as a subinflammatory condition of the membrane tympani … All the trouble speedily vanishes if the ear is allowed a sufficient measure of physiological rest; this it can only obtain by the cause of the evil being withdrawn. The victims … seem all to be of markedly nervous organization, and the moral may be drawn that such persons should not use the telephone. British Medical Journal, September 21, 1889
His article is a rational appraisal of the UNESCO report based on legal opinion and not on political blame which has obscured the realities of recent events. The final paragraph of the article summarises the abject folly of the developments which threaten survival of the reef.
This is an issue of great concern to DEA; it is perhaps the reflection of the immaturity of a society when the right to mine overrides some of the fundamentals for human health. Human dependence on biodiversity is built into our submissions to governments. In the article on Covenants the Bimblebox Nature Refuge is mentioned. In its submission on the EIS for Mr Palmer’s Waratah Coal’s proposed Galilee Coal Project, we said “this loss (of the refuge) would be of remnant native vegetation used for minimal impact sustainable grazing and the biodiversity that has adapted to this system, a unique experiment that has brought sustainable co-existence between grazing and conservation recognised in surveys of the biodiversity and government support under the Federal National Reserve System program”. Mr Palmer has said “Under that grading you’re allowed to mine it, build on it, build houses on it, do anything on it”.
Solar energy has no health hazards and low green house emissions. Germany forges ahead with its use. Some Australian states are reducing their commitment to solar and indeed Queensland has recently cancelled a project at Cloncurry approved by the previous government. It prefers coal seam gas although this threatens farming land and water resources.
In 2009 the Lancet stated “Climate change is the biggest health threat of the 21st century” This article is intended for the student members of Doctors for the Environment Australia but all doctors are life-long students, so we hope it will be used by all. It is the second of two Primers on climate change science and health impacts. The first article is here
Doctors for the Environment Australia maintains its commitment to advocacy on climate change because this is one of the biggest threats to human health this century. Our quest to reduce fossil fuel usage is integral to action on climate change.
The most recent setback to efforts to reduce greenhouse emission is the push from the Victorian government to develop brown coal resources. The basis for this is to export it – and leave the importing nations to account for the emissions. The proposal is tacitly supported by the notion that clean coal technology (CCS) is ‘coming’ and will improve the efficiency of burning brown coal. There have been several spectacular failures to develop the technology and we are left with the realisation that continued government funding for its development may be just a front to continue mining and polluting. The following article. Coal’s burning question – how much difference can technology make to emissions? discusses the use of brown coal in Victoria and we thank the author Damon Honnery and the Conversation for permission to publish under creative commons. To read the technological side of the issue go to the article Carbon capture and storage – a vital part of our climate change response. Additional recommended reading is at the end of this article
The acceptance of risk is essential to facilitating action on climate change. The worldwide insurance industry measures risk to property and its premiums are soaring due to extreme weather events which they attribute partially to climate change. Climate risk is also developing a legal basis In Australia local governments in many coastal areas have accepted the report Climate change risks to Australia’s coasts and are taking action on planning and mitigation. Federal and state parliaments are involved in ideological warfare on climate change have clearly not accepted the degree of risk to the nation or they suffer from cognitive dissonance as detailed in the excellent article by Marion Carey.
The article Highway to Dystopia; time to wise up to the looming risks by John Crawford and co-authors was originally published the Conversation and we thank the authors and the Conversation for permission to republish under Creative Commons.This article further develops the concept of risk using a recent report from the World Economic Forum and should be read in conjunction with a DEA report to the Senate on complex systems. Now read on;-
Climate change is a complex problem but appears to many people as lacking immediate impact on their lives. Reconceptualising it as a health issue may allow for both better understanding of the issue and greater scope for changing behaviour.
DEA Editorial Comment; This article talks about DEA’s submission opposing this huge project. There seems to be inevitability about the approval of this project which is expected to impose more pollution on an already polluted city. An editorial in the Newcastle Herald on the same day indicates the economic and job opportunities provided. The conflict between these and health is discussed in the DEA article below.
This initiative was stimulated by the department of Climate Change issuing a response to Ian Plimer’s 101 climate questions. In late 2011, Professor Ian Plimer, a geology professor and expert mineralogist with no background in climate science, released his latest book How to get expelled from school: a guide to climate change for pupils, parents and punters.
This is an important topic because simple action on these short term pollutants reduces global temperature immediately. Their health impacts are therefore important. A year ago we provided an ABC on this topic and pointed out Australia’s role in this pollution. Black carbon is produced with the burning of forest floor waste, prescribed burns, the burning of agricultural waste and the use of diesel combustion engines. Methane pollution is a major mainly unaddressed problem in Australia from the fugitive emissions from coal seam gas wells and from the emissions by livestock. Methane emissions are increasing internationally.
The Club of Rome, is an international think-tank that focuses on stimulating debate on achieving a sustainable future. The Club is continuing its tradition of supporting work that raises fundamental questions and promotes far-sighted solutions. Its reports are important because they utilise both scientific and economic thinking. . Its mission is to undertake forward-looking analysis and assessment on ways forward to a happier, more resilient and sustainable planet. www.clubofrome.org.
Lead poisoning has to be added to the many health hazards arising from the more extreme floods occurring with climate change. The ABC Radio National program Lead Poisoning; a silent epidemic, describes how the wave of home renovation after the floods in Queensland resulted in lead paint stripped from houses increased exposure to lead in childhood. This is an excellent program with a list of references.
To the long list of infective conditions secondary to flooding it is apparent that we must add mobilisation of chemicals and heavy metals from the environment. The floods caused a washout of herbicide into coastal waters and the discharge of heavy metals from flooded coal mines into river catchments.
In the May 2012 edition of the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia there are a number of “highly sustainable” articles to be read. I commend you to peruse this edition of the aforementioned journal neither because it’s interesting nor because Forbes McGain et al wrote 3 of the articles! Instead such publications in the mainstream, peer reviewed medical literature indicates that sustainability, resource use and climate change are attracting attention in the world of medical research and because such interest adds to advocacy efforts.
With only inverted commas signalling the spin, the news media have happily recycled the term ‘green tape’, the latest rhetorical gambit by those decrying environmental protections as unnecessarily delaying development. It’s a term that undercuts the rationale for hard won legislation, with a cynical ‘sleight of tongue’.
This article is based upon an important new report on The Psychological effects of global warming in the United States. The report will be put in the context of previous work in Australia including that by Doctors for the Environment Australia.
I suggest that the name David Suzuki will be known to all those truly interested in the future of the World. In a letter to friends and organisations he says
Last month DEA’s Dr Dimity Williams- a Melbourne GP and passionate tree lover- went deep into the Tarkine with the crew from GetUp to help raise awareness on the threat to the Tarkine posed by mining see link : http://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/save-our-forests/tony-burke/dont-mine-the-tarkine
For eight years conservationists have fought to have the Tarkine rainforest in Tasmania included on the National Heritage List. Yet despite its eligibility it is under threat from large mining projects and a federal government reluctant to give responsibility for its listing to an independent arbiter.
If you have any commitment to the future of humanity you will groan when you see the word sustainability. It must be the most corrupted word in the English language, a corruption of Orwellian proportions. When used to name a government department it immediately rings warning bells. In Victoria there is a Department of Sustainability and Environment which “leads the Victorian Government’s efforts to sustainably manage….. climate change.” This week it lead a demolish program.
This article from Bill McGuire professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. Summarises his recent book “Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes”, published by Oxford University Press
DEA readers were introduced to the Millennium Alliance in 2009
The statement which follows comes from some of the most perceptive brains in the world and is published by MHAB
The Climate Commission launched an important Climate Change & Health report on November 2011. DEA endorsed the report which was co-authored by DEA Scientific Committee member Professor Tony McMichael. Also at the launch was DEA management committee member and GP Dr Ben Ticehurst
The Sunday Age has announced a campaign to have their readership direct coverage of climate change. Over the coming weeks, readers will be able to suggest and vote for topics on climate change using the ‘Our Say’ website.
We need more politicians who will talk at public meetings about the damage to ecology–our life support systems. This is exactly what Kelvin Thomson MP is doing in his talk “The impact of population growth on wildlife” which is published below. In publishing this, with his permission, I make the point that we will publish articles from members of other parties if they fit within our policy framework.
A collection of over 30 modules with internationally harmonised information and peer-reviewed materials to enable health care workers to be trained, and also to become trainers of their peers and colleagues.
The ravages of asbestos induced lung disease are well known to the Australian community, but the problem continues throughout the world particularly in developing countries. This is a brief review of asbestos as a world problem. together with three key references.
In making representations to our colleagues on the need to mitigate climate change we should not delude ourselves that all will bow to the reasoning of science, nor to the tenets of natural justice. Both are often sullied by self interest and ideology. When asking a colleague to contribute to climate change education I was greeted with silence- so I resorted to “You have young children what about their future?” The response was “that’s their problem” It was my turn to be silent!
Three years ago DEA produced a poster on Biodiversity – the Web of Life. It asked “Will the next generation inhabit a healthy earth?” The poster was very popular especially with schools.
This article prepared for the ISDE web site raises the issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment and their possible appearance in recycled water, a highly relevant topic as we move to a world with water scarcity. This is a comprehensive review of how pharmaceuticals reach the environment and their possible harmful effects.
Climate Change HEALTH is a new blog by Dubbo GP Dr Paul Roth covering news and views on climate, health and the environment. Launched early July 2009, there are already 31 posts covering topics like basic climate science, effects of global warming, and the health effects of climate change.
Early in 2008, Doctors for the Environment Australia wrote to all Federal parliamentarians about climate change. Because of the urgency of reducing greenhouse emissions we asked them to “Write to us yourself and tell us what you are doing personally (i.e. within your household) to address the problem of climate change. Let us know how you are showing leadership within your electorate and please send to us any messages you are using in your newsletters to constituents.
I was not at the 2020 summit, nor did I apply. Therefore my comments relate entirely to the written report, the submissions and the press comments of others who were there.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has had many requests for help from members regarding sustainability in their hospitals. Most say that it is difficult to find sources of information.
by Guy Pearse
“The reality is that climate change of the order and time frames predicted by climate scientists poses fundamental questions of human security, survival and the stability of nation states which necessitate judgments about political and strategic risk as well as economic cost.” This an introductory statement from a collaborative paper “Heating up the Planet; Climate Change and Security” from the Lowy Institute for International Policy written by Alan Dupont, Senior Fellow for International Security at the Institute and Graeme Pearman, former Chief of Atmospheric Research at the CSIRO.
Seeds of Concern: The Genetic Manipulation of Plants – Part One – 11/04/2004 by Dr David Murray
I would like to alert DEA members and invite them to give their support to the Futureworld Eco-Technology Centre in Coniston, Wollongong. Futureworld is a not for profit community based organization almost entirely dependent on volunteers. The Centre also has strong connections to the University of Wollongong.
The Eco-Technology Centre will be opening shortly and will exhibit cutting edge, developing and current commercially available environmentally friendly technologies including energy saving technologies. Three Illawarra environmental technology world firsts, the Solar Sailor, Energetec’s Wave Power and Brightstar Environmental Solid Waste to Energy (SWERF) will be demonstrated.