Doctors have condemned yesterday’s launch of the National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) centre by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne, because it shows a blatant disregard of the scientific consensus that the fossil fuel sector is fuelling climate change and harms human health.
Spokesperson for medical advocacy organisation Doctors for the Environment Australia, Dr Sujata Allan, says global warming increases the frequency and intensity of heat waves which can lead to heat stroke, heart attacks, dehydration and renal failure; floods and wild storms can cause drownings and other injuries; and all these events can lead to stress and affect mental well-being.
Australia’s health system infrastructure and resources can also be affected by more severe and frequent extreme weather events, potentially limiting their ability to provide care. In the heatwave before the Black Saturday bushfires, 25 per cent of all hospitals had problems with their air-conditioning or cooling systems.
“Where is the investment of money into protecting communities from the health effects of the coal and unconventional gas industries?” says Dr Allan. “The health costs of coal burning are such that if they were calculated into the cost of the electricity it generates, coal would be the most expensive source of energy. Instead, Australian communities are bearing this cost with their own health, and the fossil fuel industries are receiving subsidies, government handouts and props to keep them afloat. “
The launch of NERA comes soon after the CSIRO job cuts, notably to climate science.
Says Dr Allan, “This change in ‘scientific’ direction clearly shows where the governments’ priorities lie, and it isn’t with protecting the health of Australians. As families lose their homes in ever worsening fire seasons triggered by climate change and people die premature deaths from preventable fossil fuel-caused air pollution, the government continues to back the very industry causing these problems.
Fossil fuel industries must be supported into palliative care if humanity is to seriously address climate change. Australia has an immense opportunity with its wealth of renewable resources, and if our Minister understands basic climate science and heeds the words of economists worldwide, renewables would be what he would invest in.”
First published in Tasmanian Times, 25 February 2016