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.
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.
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.
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 -->
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—>
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 -->
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 -->
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The scale of the developments in WA is enormous: a recent report states that the total global emissions from all of WA’s gas reserves (conventional and unconventional) is equivalent to 36.4bn tonnes of C02, that is eight times more than the planned Adani coal mine would produce in its lifetime.
The Anthropocene is of great significance to modern medicine. Air pollution, climate change, extreme weather events and food insecurity are now some of human health’s most pressing issues. Most days in my general practice I see a patient whose presentation has some connection to our rapidly changing ecosystem. Read full article in Medical Observer or on the DEA site (read on).
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
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 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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Will they kick the coal to save the coral?
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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?
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.
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.
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.
The Turnbull Government has once again prioritised growing the economy over human lives, writes Dr Kris Barnden.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Rebecca Tuma
Divestment is the opposite of investment and means getting rid of stocks, bonds or funds that are deemed unethical or morally ambiguous. Leading up to Divestment Day, Rebecca Tuma urges you to use your consumer power and put your money where your convictions are.
by Katya Glogovska
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will be gutted by a funding cut of $500 million. But it’s at odds with the government’s claims to be innovative and support jobs and growth.
Gas is a seemingly difficult issue for governments. Looking at the health disasters of asbestos, tobacco and air pollution from coal, government ministers might wonder if they would have acted earlier had they been in power and reassured themselves they would. That is the problem, they are making decisions now based on political expediency which will leave their successors to face the potential health consequences.
The decisions reached at the recent Coag energy council meeting are reminiscent of a long series of failures to understand the impacts of powerful business on the health of the community.
As the Victorian government prepares to release its much anticipated gas policy, expected before parliament resumes on August 16, pro fossil fuel heavy weights have already jumped the starting line with misleading spin.
Dr. Graeme McLeay from Doctors for the Environment urges us to contact our energy ministers before this month’s COAG meeting and tell them fossil fuels undermine our national security, economy and health.
Territorians love the natural environment. We enjoy the environment both for the exhilaration it gives us, and for its tourism value. We should also remember that our health depends on having clean air and water and safe food.
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.
Climate change is one of three “slow-motion disasters” shaping the global health landscape, together with the rise of antimicrobial resistance and non-communicable diseases, according to the World Health Organization’s Director General Dr Margaret Chan.
The recent studies of air pollution in the Hunter finally show us the constituents of pollution and points to the likely sources. We agree with the editorial comment (Newcastle Herald, April 30) that it is extraordinary that the EPA seems to have leapt to the defence of the coal industry, because a close look at the results shows that coal mining, transport and burning is a major contributor to pollution.
Students across Australia are staging bold actions at their universities to demand divestment from fossil fuels. Why do the issues of climate change and fossil fuel investment resonate so strongly with university students? It’s about equality and justice, explains Damian Gill.
The release of Labor’s climate policy has led immediately to a resumption of World War I style trench warfare.
A new paper Investing in Health, released this week by the Climate and Health Alliance and Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA), highlights the opportunity and the rationale for health and medical professionals to shift their investments away from coal, oil and gas industries.
In the piece below, Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of CAHA and Dr Helen Redmond from DEA highlight the lead taken by international medical organisations in divesting in fossil fuels and argue that health professionals have both a moral and practical impetus to join the growing disinvestment movement.
RECENT droughts and bushfires have made us far more conscious of how a warming climate can affect our health, especially in regional Australia.
The NSW Minerals Council’s new campaign extolling the virtues of coal mining was launched on Tuesday, and according to their media release it is due to appear on NSW television screens this month.
Climate change is described by leaders of the medical profession as the greatest health risk of this century. Its health impacts are already significant both internationally and in Australia and are predicted to increase with rising temperatures. The severity of natural disasters from extreme weather events is increased by climate change and is an important cause of harms to our health.
South Australia’s recent Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission has recommended avoiding some bad options: no nuclear power generation and no reprocessing or fuel leasing in the foreseeable future.
We all want contact with the outdoors and the natural world, says Dr Dimity Williams in this article for parenting magazine, the Bub Hub. Yet today’s lifestyle means we live inside our homes, cars or in big shopping centres which restrict and blunt our senses.
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.
Medical professionals and organisations, together with community members, raised serious concerns about the health impacts of unconventional gas extraction in submissions to a recent Victorian Parliamentary inquiry.
Local media reported today that drilling had begun in the Beeliar wetlands in Perth’s south for the construction of the controversial Roe 8 highway extension, planned as the first stage of the Western Australian Government’s $1.6 billion Perth Freight Link.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is the latest in a line of senior politicians and coal industry figures to endorse future coal exports, stating this week that “… energy poverty is one of the big limits on global development in terms of achieving all of the development goals, alleviating hunger and promoting prosperity right around the world – energy is an absolute critical ingredient. So coal will play a big part in that.”
AIR quality has been a community concern in Newcastle for many years. When the results of the first 12 months of air quality monitoring became available from new monitors in Carrington and Stockton, it became clear that this region has some of the worst air quality in NSW.
The coal industry’s latest PR escapade paints coal as an amazing, versatile commodity with almost limitless possibilities, providing seemingly endless energy and employment.
On the surface, the unconventional gas industry promises many things, including cheap energy and jobs. However in this comment piece in the Geelong Advertiser, Dr Liz Bashford says that the risks from unconventional gas are potentially serious for both human health and the environment.
Air pollution in Newcastle, NSW, is so bad that it is equivalent to smoking a cigarette a day, according to a group of doctors who have called on the state government to take immediate action to protect local residents, especially children, reports Natalie O’Brien in the Sydney Morning Herald.
IN 2013, the federal government’s Future Fund and many superannuation funds dumped investments in tobacco companies following a long campaign by health groups.
JENNIFER DOGGETT: The medical profession has taken a lead role in many respects on climate change and environmental issues but there is still scope for more to be done. In the following piece, Dr Sujata Allan, argues that doctors have both a responsibility and a unique role in play in advocating for greater action to combat climate change. She also offers a number of practical suggestions for how members of the medical profession can become more involved at a personal and professional level in preventing the harms associated with climate change.
Climate change has become a highly polarised issue in Australia, with the focus on the economic and political costs and risks.
In Australia there are 3000 deaths each year from air pollution, which is more than from traffic accidents. Imagine the nightly TV news – instead of the twisted car metal and bodies, they show a child fighting for breath from asthma being loaded into an ambulance in Bulga, or a patient with a heart attack in the Latrobe Valley.
THE evidence for harmful health effects from particulate air pollution has become stronger over the years, so periodic review of air quality regulations in keeping with current science is vital for the protection of human health.
By Dr David King
Climate change is not just an urgent environmental issue; it is having a devastating effect on the health of our children, says this comment piece in Guardian Australia which was co-written by leading paediatrician and former Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Stanley, who is also a member of DEA’s Scientific Committee, and DEA’s Advocacy and Policy Officer as well as GP, Dr Sallie Forrest.
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.
Australia needs mandatory federal guidelines on fracking and coal mining that are based on scientific and medical opinion, says Doctors for the Environment Australia’s Honorary Secretary Dr David Shearman in an oped in the Sydney Morning Herald today.
It’s becoming increasingly clear from recent decisions …that the actions of the NSW government show little concern for air pollution which harms local communities and the ALP opposition isn’t doing much opposing of this.
The approval of the Warkworth open-cut coal mine extension by the Planning Assessment Commission moves the mine boundary from the existing five kilometres to 2.6 kilometres from the town of Bulga, a stable township with a 200-year history.
By Marie McInerney
The fearsome spectre of Ash Wednesday hung over the Adelaide Hills for five days this week as firefighters battled to control the worst bushfires so far in Australia this summer. Now South Australia, and elsewhere, prepares for flooding rains.
Research that Population Health Professor Marj Moodie and I have conducted has found that incidental physical activity from active transport, such as walking to catch the train to work or cycling to the shops, can save lives and money.
Doctors from across the globe came together at the H20 International Health Summit late last year. Grace Davies, one of the keynote speakers, explains the influence of climate change on existing health and development issues and what she and fellow Australian medical students are doing to address this.
An organisation promoting Pacific youth to take leadership on climate change, called 350 Pacific, organised representatives from 12 Pacific islands to share their stories in Australia last month to provide insight into the human face of climate change.
I recently spoke on behalf of Doctors for the Environment Australia to the Commissioner on the Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in NT, Mr Allan Hawke. This Inquiry was established in April 2014 to provide information to the NT government on a range of issues related to hydraulic fracturing “fracking”. It will report by the end of 2014.
“Clean air, clean water and food three pillars of good health, say doctors”
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) Chair, Professor Kingsley Faulkner wrote to Mr Richard Warburton, Chair of the Renewable Endergy Target Review to express DEA’s concern about the process and expected outcomes of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) Review.
Recently the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) published an article on the uncertainties surrounding the health impacts of the unconventional gas industry https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2014/200/4/harms-unknown-health-uncertainties-cast-doubt-role-unconventional-gas-australias. This was an important step on the road to highlighting the science of both the known and unknown adverse health impacts of unconventional gas extraction.
The following article written by Doctors for the Environment Australia members Mark Braidwood and Catherine Pendrey appeared in MJA InSight (7/4/14) and appears here under Creative Commons licence.
Our global scientists have been indicating for many years, that humanity has overstepped the boundaries of our ecological systems.
Costa Rica, a developing country without mineral resources, has environmental and climate change policies which should be an example to Australia. It is a leader in environmental sustainability and performance. Nicaragua is very poor and highly susceptible to climate change.
Over two weeks ago the Hazelwood and Yallourn open cut coal mines began burning and exposing thousands of people in the town of Morwell in Gippsland, Victoria to an onslaught of ash and smoke. The EPA has been recording very poor air quality in the region http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/our-work/monitoring-the-environment/air-quality-bulletins/weekly-air-quality-summary and is ramping up air pollution monitoring. People in Morwell are complaining of respiratory and other health symptoms, face masks have been widely distributed, health advice has been issued and people advised to leave if they able. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/morwell-residents-scared-to-stay-but-unable-to-leave-as-coalmine-fire-burns-on-20140226-33ii1.html
This month we saw one of the most significant multi-day heatwaves on record in Australia. The heatwave affected large parts of South-eastern Australia with maximum temperatures for the period 13-17 January 12°C or more above normal in most of Victoria, most areas of South Australia within 200 kilometres of the coast, and parts of central Tasmania.
I enjoyed reading Greening your transport: Where does an electric car fit in? by Hubertus Jersmann. I would like to make some comments.
For many years the World Health Organization (WHO) have made it clear that the health care sector should lead by example in terms of reducing climate change pollutants and by demonstrating how climate change mitigation can yield tangible, immediate health benefits.
A case study by Adelaide-based specialist and DEA SA committee member, Hubertus Jersmann.
The following excerpt by Marion Carey appeared in a Crikey article and appears here under a Creative Commons licence.
As one of thousands of junior doctors needing to choose which residency job to next apply for and therefore which career path to follow, I am in a minority of the readership of this magazine. However, you may remember what this time of your life felt like – to have such diverse opportunities in front of you, yet be so immersed in the challenge of acquiring the skills of a profession as soon as is possible.
This article by DEA Committee Member Marion Carey was published in The Conversation 2nd April and appears under a Creative Commons licence.
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.
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.
by David Shearman and Linda Selvey
We thank the author and The Conversation for permission to publish under creative commons. This article about Peter’s new book will be of particular interest to DEA members because of its perceptive observations on the relationships between human and avian diseases. Peter is an active member of our Scientific Advisory Commitee.
We thank the Author Tim Flannery and The Conversation for permission to publish under creative commons
Following the release of Victorian climate impacts and opportunities yesterday, the Commission’s Chief Commissioner, Professor Tim Flannery, writes here about Victoria and its state of play.
We thank Roger Jones and the Conversation for permission to republish under creative commons.
A catchment threatened by salinity can’t be repaired by one or two landholders. Revegetation designed to lower watertables has its greatest ecological benefit where the plants are, but its net impact on salinity is small and spread over a much larger area. To achieve catchment-wide benefits, many good neighbours need to pay a small amount towards revegetation, with everyone contributing according to their capacity. Landcare – an idea invented in Australia and exported overseas – works exactly on that basis. It is supported by all major political parties, and many Landcare programs are funded by the taxpayer.
By David Shearman. We thank Climate Spectator for permission to republish. The tide of public opinion on climate change may be turning in the US with the impacts of massive drought, floods, storms and bushfires. A recent poll suggests so. Perhaps the removal of climate change from the realm of science to personal experience of physical and economic harm was always necessary for realisation.
There has been little mainstream medical interest in Rio 2012 despite the fact that improvements in world health outcomes are intimately related to the out comes.
Welcome and welcome back to the slew of new members who have joined us this year and to all of the returning members. For those who I haven’t had the chance to meet, my name is Aaron Tracey and I am a third year medical student at the Melbourne Clinical School of the University of Notre Dame. As the new National Student Representative, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you all for signing up to make a difference. My job is to represent all of you at the DEA National Committee meetings and therefore, I’d love to hear from you, whether you have feedback, suggestions, complaints or questions. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com any time.
Instinctively, we want contact with nature – we’d all like the office with a view of the park instead of a view of the carpark. Yet few doctors are aware of the health benefits associated with regular contact with nature and this is despite an ever expanding evidence base. I hope this article will inspire you to bring nature into your practice and the prescription of a ‘green hour’ into your management plan for the wellbeing of not only your patients and your staff but for you too.
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.
There is an important public health message for power producers and governments. It is no longer appropriate to harm people by burning air polluting fossil fuels when there are healthy alternatives.
A few weeks ago I was thrilled to be part of an expedition into the Tarkine rainforest of Tasmania organised by Getup! as part of their campaign to protect this great wilderness area. Getup! had selected a diverse group of participants from their large membership based on responses to a passionate call to action for the Tarkine.
By George Crisp and David Shearman on 20 March 2012 in Renew Economy. We thank Renew Economy.
The Draft Energy White Paper (EWP) displays a grave misunderstanding of energy issues in the 21st century……
by David Shearman and Marion Carey, of Doctors for the Environment Australia
from Crikey March 8, 2012 http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/03/08/behind-the-seams-whos-asking-questions-about-coal-seam-gas-and-health/
We thank the Editor of crikey for permission.
Tens of thousands of Australians live and work close to coal-fired power plants. The cocktail of gaseous and particulate pollutants arising from coal power generation is injurious to human health. All are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in the days after exposure and subsequently with the development of chronic cardiopulmonary diseases.
By Karin English 2nd Year medical student at the University of Queensland, Ipswich
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
AUSTRALIA’S resources boom is already generating a lot of dust, noise and fumes, and the amount stirred up is only going to increase, given plans by miners to double coal and iron ore extraction this decade.
Yet state and federal governments are doing surprisingly little to monitor and regulate these impacts on the people living in the shadow of mining and energy projects. While state governments require companies to submit voluminous environmental impact statements, designed to protect flora and fauna, less is being done to protect people….
…A group of concerned doctors has written to federal and state ministers about the risks for the population near this mine. Doctors for the Environment, which includes Gustav Nossal on its scientific committee, says in a letter to federal Environment Minister Tony Burke that the expansion to a four million tonne annual operation had already subjected the surrounding population to “serious pollution which is likely to have affected their health and this situation has existed since 2006 when stage 2 commenced.
Emeritus professor David Shearman told Burke it “beggars belief” that the company has not produced adequate data on PM2.5 levels and that of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are commonly found in high levels around coal mines.
However the data that is presented, though inadequate, suggests that air quality has been unacceptable for some years,” he wrote.
The Acland open cast coal mine, stages 1 and 2 are in operation in Queensland producing 4.0Mtpa.
Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) has taken the unusual step of writing to Minister Burke and publishing the letter (below) simultaneously. DEA sees the issue as urgent and one that cannot be left to the usual niceties of communication.
Enough evidence has emerged at the Senate Inquiry into coal seam gas to merit significant reform orchestrated by the Federal Government.
Mr Abbott visits coal mines to say “No to carbon tax”; the Prime Minister supports new coal mines; the Australian Coal Association director Ralph Hillman says the government’s proposed carbon tax would add to the costs of Australian coalminers, “while our competitors will bear no such burden”.
At a time when the State government is negotiating the expansion of the Anglesea open-cut coal mine, people living in Anglesea and the Greater Geelong Region are entitled to be informed of the potential adverse health effects associated with the coal industry in general and this mine in particular. One of the buildings closest to the Anglesea mine is the newly opened Anglesea Primary school.
The following article was authored by DEA Victorian chair Dr Eugenie Kayak. An earlier version first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 editions of Anaesthetic Life & Surgical Life – publications of Medical Life Publishing. We thank them for permission to present the article here.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to shatter rock strata and force coal seam gas to the surface. It is then refined into natural gas for fuel. The emerging problems of water contamination from fracking are being reported from many sources. They raise the entire question of government responsibilities to the community in the sphere of public health.
Not many lectures are a work of art. This one is, in more ways than one. Bryan Furnass, DEA Member, welds ecological and medical knowledge, using Western art and literature, to create a masterpiece. When you read it you will both learn and enjoy the experience. Don’t miss it!
The announcement of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute at the G8 meeting by Mr. Rudd and President Obama and the support from 23 governments, 100 companies and with James Wolfensohn and Nicholas Stern on its advisory board was reported as the one positive feature of the meeting. Let us analyse whether this is positive or negative for the containment of green house emissions
This article describes the Feed-In Scheme for Small-Scale Solar Photovoltaic Installations in South Australia
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.