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ICYMI: planet Earth is “under siege”, COVID updates, celebrating primary healthcare, conference watch – and research matters

In this week’s column, scientists explain why they are shocked by the ferocity of extreme weather events in 2023, and call for transformation of the global economy to prioritise human well-being and to provide for a more equitable distribution of resources.

We also bring COVID updates, the latest news in global health, and share tributes to University of Newcastle public health researcher Professor Kypros Kypri, who died in a cycling accident recently.

The quotable?

This is our moment to make a profound difference for all life on Earth, and we must embrace it with unwavering courage and determination to create a legacy of change that will stand the test of time.”


Climate crisis

“Life on planet Earth is under siege. We are now in an uncharted territory. For several decades, scientists have consistently warned of a future marked by extreme climatic conditions because of escalating global temperatures caused by ongoing human activities that release harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, time is up. We are seeing the manifestation of those predictions as an alarming and unprecedented succession of climate records are broken, causing profoundly distressing scenes of suffering to unfold. We are entering an unfamiliar domain regarding our climate crisis, a situation no one has ever witnessed firsthand in the history of humanity.”

So begins this journal article, The 2023 state of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory, published on 24 October in Bioscience, reporting that 20 of Earth’s 35 vital signs are now showing record extremes.

It is worth reading the entire article; below are some further extracts.

“In 2023, we witnessed an extraordinary series of climate-related records being broken around the world. The rapid pace of change has surprised scientists and caused concern about the dangers of extreme weather, risky climate feedback loops, and the approach of damaging tipping points sooner than expected. The trends reveal new all-time climate-related records and deeply concerning patterns of climate-related disasters. At the same time, we report minimal progress by humanity in combating climate change. Given these distressing developments, our goal is to communicate climate facts and policy recommendations to scientists, policymakers, and the public. It is the moral duty of us scientists and our institutions to clearly alert humanity of any potential existential threat and to show leadership in taking action…

“Economic growth, as it is conventionally pursued, is unlikely to allow us to achieve our social, climate, and biodiversity goals. The fundamental challenge lies in the difficulty of decoupling economic growth from harmful environmental impacts. Although technological advancements and efficiency improvements can contribute to some degree of decoupling, they often fall short in mitigating the overall ecological footprint of economic activities. The impacts vary greatly by wealth; in 2019, the top 10% of emitters were responsible for 48% of global emissions, whereas the bottom 50% were responsible for just 12%. We therefore need to change our economy to a system that supports meeting basic needs for all people instead of excessive consumption by the wealthy…

“By the end of this century, an estimated 3 to 6 billion individuals – approximately one-third to one-half of the global population – might find themselves confined beyond the livable region, encountering severe heat, limited food availability, and elevated mortality rates because of the effects of climate change. Big problems need big solutions. Therefore, we must shift our perspective on the climate emergency from being just an isolated environmental issue to a systemic, existential threat…

“Although global heating is devastating, it represents only one aspect of the escalating and interconnected environmental crisis that we are facing (e.g., biodiversity loss, fresh water scarcity, pandemics). We need policies that target the underlying issues of ecological overshoot where the human demand on Earth’s resources results in overexploitation of our planet and biodiversity decline. As long as humanity continues to exert extreme pressure on the Earth, any attempted climate-only solutions will only redistribute this pressure.

“To address the overexploitation of our planet, we challenge the prevailing notion of endless growth and overconsumption by rich countries and individuals as unsustainable and unjust. Instead, we advocate for reducing resource overconsumption; reducing, reusing, and recycling waste in a more circular economy; and prioritising human flourishing and sustainability. We emphasise climate justice and fair distribution of the costs and benefits of climate action, particularly for vulnerable communities. We call for a transformation of the global economy to prioritise human well-being and to provide for a more equitable distribution of resources.

“As scientists, we are increasingly being asked to tell the public the truth about the crises we face in simple and direct terms. The truth is that we are shocked by the ferocity of the extreme weather events in 2023. We are afraid of the uncharted territory that we have now entered. Conditions are going to get very distressing and potentially unmanageable for large regions of the world, with the 2.6°C warming expected over the course of the century, even if the self-proposed national emissions reduction commitments of the Paris Agreement are met. We warn of potential collapse of natural and socioeconomic systems in such a world where we will face unbearable heat, frequent extreme weather events, food and fresh water shortages, rising seas, more emerging diseases, and increased social unrest and geopolitical conflict…

“This is our moment to make a profound difference for all life on Earth, and we must embrace it with unwavering courage and determination to create a legacy of change that will stand the test of time.”

Sign up here.


COVID update

See the report on First Nations communities and COVID. Read: Maternal Covid-19 vaccination offers infants immunity for up to 6 months
Read the Australian Prescriber article, COVID-19 vaccines in 2023

Read the statement on aged care and COVID


Global health

Read: WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the International Conference Commemorating Alma-Ata 45 and Astana 5: “Primary healthcare is one of the most important concepts in public health. It is the most inclusive, effective, and efficient path to universal health coverage.”

Read: Creating the Conditions for Resilient Communities: A Public Health Approach to Emergencies  Read: Setting trans fat limits in Kenya could save thousands of lives and cut costs Read about the settlement for First Nations families in Canada.


#AusPol

Read: Drug Checking and Early Warning Systems: Knowing the harms can prevent the harms Read more: Gerard Benedet appointed Executive Director, Pharmacy Guild of Australia See the Foodbank Australia report


Healthcare safety and quality


Justice matters


Conference watch

The Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education conferenceNAATSIHWP conference

 


Joint International Congress, Parks & Leisure Australia and World Urban Parks Healthy transport


Research matters


Read: The Use of mHealth Apps for the Assessment and Management of Diabetes-Related Foot Health Outcomes: Systematic ReviewRead the UNSW statement Read: Theory of systems change: An initial, middle-range theory of public health research impact


Tributes and losses


Awards and appointments


Upcoming events


See previous editions of ICYMI