The call came as the Australian Academy of Science launched its new report: Climate Change Challenges to Health: Risks and Opportunities, which has been endorsed by the Australian Medical Association.
AMA President Brian Owler said the report provides compelling evidence of the significant threat that climate change poses to worldwide health, and makes the case for urgent action and planning.
“The Report brings together high level research across science, social science, and technology to provide a comprehensive overview that fills the knowledge gap on the impacts of climate change on human health,” he said.
“The Report’s recommendations should assist the Australian Government in preparing for the inevitable health effects of climate change such as increased food and water borne diseases and heat-related illness and deaths.”
The report highlights that the elderly, the sick, the very young and disadvantaged Australians are most likely to suffer health problems as the climate changes, with the five major pressures on health being:
- the health impacts of extreme weather events
- changing patterns of disease
- disruptions to food and water supplies
- loss of livelihoods
- increased threats to security.
The report makes eight high-level recommendations for Australia to alleviate these impacts and better adapt to a changing climate. They include:
- measures to identify those most at risk and create programs and early warning systems to prevent adverse health impacts for the sick, the elderly, the poor, and people living in remote communities
- better national coordination of adaptation strategies through a new National Centre for Disease Control and a new National Food and Water Commission
- encouraging individuals and organisations to take early action to help those affected in their communities
“Human health is where we’ll see some of the most immediate impacts of a changing climate,” said one of the contributors to the report and Fellow of the Academy, Professor Bruce Armstrong.
“Whether it be more heatwaves, tropical diseases moving to new areas, or lost jobs in farming, fishing and tourism; these are all directly linked to costs for health and mental health. The inequalities that already exist in society are likely to widen, as more advantaged groups are able to adapt better to this different world.”
The report and its 22 detailed recommendations are based on discussions between world experts and 60 early- and mid-career researchers at a Think Tank convened by the Academy with support from the Theo Murphy (Australia) Fund in Brisbane last year.
The AMA released a Position Statement on Climate Change and Health in 2004, which was updated in 2008, and can be found at https://ama.com.au/position-statement/climate-change-and-human-health-2004-revised-2008. The AMA says it’s currently being updated.
The World Medical Association (WMA) 2011 Durban Declaration on approved a new Declaration on Climate and Health is at http://www.wma.net/en/20activities/30publichealth/30healthenvironment/Durban_Declaration_on_Climate_and_Health_Final.pdf
And below are some tweets from the launch of the report: