Climate and Health News August 2020


Welcome to the August Climate and Health News! 

This edition, we are focusing on COVID-19, climate change and health.

We would like to officially welcome recently joined CAHA members - Central Australian Rural Practitioners AssociationChildren's Healthcare Australasia, Codesain, ConNetica Consulting, Consumers Health Forum of Australia, Doctors for Nutrition, Health Consumers NSW, Medical Association for Prevention of War Australia, MinterEllisonNaturopaths and Herbalists Association, Veterinarians for Climate ActionWHO Collaborating Centre for Health Impact Assessment and Women's Healthcare Australasia.

Please enjoy this edition of the newsletter. And make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the loop! 

Not yet a member or monthly donor? Find out about becoming a CAHA member here or donate to support our work here!

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Thanks to all our members for joining our quarterly meeting! 

A big shout out to all the CAHA members from across the country who joined our recent online meeting to hear about our current work and share how they are taking action on climate to protect our health! 

COVID-19 and Climate

Creating a healthier, greener, fairer world post-COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered many inequities that were previously hidden from view in Australia, such as inadequate wages and working conditions, dependence on global supply chain for vital medical equipment, and lack of investment in medical research, innovation and development initiatives. Our Executive Director Fiona Armstrong and Professor Tony Capon (Monash Sustainable Development Institute) discussed the need for Australia to "build back better" after the COVID-19 pandemic for a healthy, just and sustainable future on MJA InSight+.

The Domino Effect: Climate Change and Pandemics

The COVID-19 crisis and the climate and biodiversity crises are deeply connected, and environmental damage can make humans more susceptible to the effects of infectious diseases. Through COVID-19, governments have demonstrated they can take immediate, emergency measures, which go beyond purely economic concerns, to protect the well-being of all. And yet, despite being declared a global emergency, the world has largely failed to address climate change and the environmental effects of our pursuit for economic growth. 

Hear Dr Jean-François Guégan, Fiona Armstrong and Dr Natasha Chassagne discuss why, for humans to survive, it is critical to connect human health, civilisation and the natural systems on which we depend. Facilitated by Misha Ketchell, Editor at The Conversation. Watch the webinar recording here.

Climate change as urgent as coronavirus

Climate activist Greta Thunberg says the world needs to learn the lessons of coronavirus and treat climate change with similar urgency. In a recent interview with BBC News, the young activist shared her hopes the COVID-19 pandemic will help open up a discussion about the urgency of taking action to prevent deaths from illnesses related to climate change and environmental degradation right now as well as in the future.  "The climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today's political and economic systems", Greta argues. Read more here.

COVID-19 pandemic is "fire drill" for the climate crisis 

UN Global Compact Executive Director Lise Kingo said the COVID-19 pandemic is "fire drill" for the climate crisis. She highlights the importance of addressing social equality issues in the sustainable development agenda: "The overall problem is that we are not sustainable in the ways we are living and producing on the planet today. The only way forward is to create a world that leaves no one behind." How can we build a fair global society? Read more here.

Sir Michael Marmot: When the pandemic arrived, we were not well prepared as a society

Leading global advocate for action on the social determinants of health and health inequalities, Sir Michael Marmot, has said the coronavirus pandemic has both exposed and amplified inequalities in society, including the deadly toll of harmful government policies and structural racism. Marmot recently published a ten-year review of his study Fair Society Health Lives, showing further increase in health inequalities since 2010. In a VicHealth Life and Health Reimagined webinar on health equity, Sir Marmot urged governments and societies to put climate change and health equity agendas together and ensure wellbeing is at the heart of economic policy. Watch Sir Marmot's presentation here, the full webinar here and read the article here.

Racial inequity of coronavirus 

New CDC data representing more than half the US population shows Black and Latino people are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Latino and African-Americans in the US are three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbours, and nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people. When comparing infections and deaths within age groups, the disparities are even more extreme. Latino people between the ages of 40 and 59 have been infected at five times the rate of white people the same age. Of Latino people who died, more than a quarter were younger than 60. Just 6% of white people who died were under 60. See more here.

Investing in people and the planet for a healthy COVID-19 recovery

Doctors and scientists are highlighting that protecting the environment must go hand in hand with economic recovery. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a Manifesto for a healthy and green COVID-19 recovery. "Everything is at stake, in health terms, if we don’t protect the climate and the environment," said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, coordinator of the climate change and health programme at the WHO. Read more here

World Economic Forum predicts nature-led COVID-19 recovery could create $10tn a year

A report from the New Nature Economy project, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) warns destruction of the natural world threatens over half of global GDP. When the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, there can be no business-as-usual as "there will be no jobs or prosperity on a dead planet," said Alan Jope, chief executive of Unilever and a WEF partner.

The report proposes a range of measures for boosting jobs and economies, such as cutting food waste, better management of wild fish, retrofitting in cities to increase energy efficiency, ending agriculture's $2 billion daily subsidies and investing in renewable energy. Overall, tackling the global nature crisis could create 400 million jobs and $10 trillion in business value each year by 2030. Read more here.

$4.4 trillion blueprint for a sustainable energy recovery 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a $4.4 trillion blueprint for a sustainable energy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemicThis plan will create 9 million jobs per year and cut 4.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. Dr Faith Birol, the Executive Director of IEA, said governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies and bring a wave of new employment opportunities while accelerating the shift to a more resilient and cleaner energy future. The IEA seeks to support a "grand coalition" of government and business leaders and investors to help tackle climate change through the pandemic response. Read the Sustainable Recovery Plan here. 


Law student sues Australian government over risks posed by climate change 

A Melbourne university student, Katta O'Donnell, has launched what has been described as a world-first legal case against the Australian government, accusing it of misleading investors in sovereign bonds by failing to disclose the financial risk caused by the climate crisis. Her claim will put the government ‘on trial for misconduct’ for failing to address climate change.

"I’m 23, I look to the future and I can definitely see that climate change is here and is going to get worse," O'Donnell said. "It’s time the government told the public about the impact climate change will have on our future and the economy." Read more about the case here.

Ambulance Victoria moves towards renewable energy

Ambulance Victoria (AV) is moving closer towards their renewable energy and emissions reduction targets: to become net zero carbon by 2050. AV is one of the first health services to have an Action Plan to reduce emissions. AV aims to source 100% of energy requirements from renewable sources by 2025. Starting from July 1st, their larger sites switched to 100% GreenPower™ accredited renewable energy from a Victorian wind farm, delivering a 7% reduction in their overall emissions.

"Working on the frontline of emergency response has a way of helping you focus on the things that really matter in life. The fact that I keep coming back to with every catastrophic weather or health event: climate change is not only an environmental and economic issue – climate change is a health issue," said CEO of Ambulance Victoria Assoc Prof Tony Walker. Read more about Ambulance Victoria's climate action here.

Racism is undermining efforts to solve the climate crisis 

Dr Ayana Johnson, a marine biologist, policy advisor, CEO of Ocean Collective and founder of Urban Ocean Lab writes in the Washington Post about the intersection of race and climate. Dr Johnson says, "Climate work is hard and heartbreaking as it is. When you throw racism and bigotry in the mix, it becomes something near impossible." Dr Johnson calls for understanding that racial inequality crisis is intertwined with climate crisis, and unless we work on both, we will succeed at neither. Read more here.

A vicious cycle: healthcare has a huge environmental footprint, which then harms health

The first global assessment of the environmental footprint of healthcare shows healthcare is harming the environment in ways that, in turn, harm health. The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, found the healthcare sector causes a substantial share of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases air pollutants and scarce water use. This counteracts the primary mission of healthcare. 

Although some might say a global pandemic is not the time to burden healthcare professionals with another responsibility, the authors argue there’s no better time to raise this issue than when the eyes of the world are on healthcare. The pandemic has brought attention to waste from single-use personal protective equipment. However, we are yet to develop consistent systems for monitoring these environmental impacts, and to implement effective strategies to reduce these impacts across the world. Read more about environmental harms of healthcare and what can be done here.

Chief scientist joins calls for Australia to dramatically boost energy efficiency 

Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, has warned the country is not doing enough to lift energy efficiency, and described measures to save electricity as the “best form of energy generation you could possibly ever hope to have”. Finkel’s view is in line with a raft of groups from across Australian society that are calling for Federal and state governments to back an energy-efficiency drive for homes and other buildings to help address both the coronavirus-triggered recession and the climate crisis. Read more here.

Nature is everyone's business: collective action to reverse nature's loss

Business for Nature, along with its 50 partners including the World Economic Forum, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, International Chamber of Commerce and WWF, held the first major global leadership event to discuss nature in a world thinking about how to emerge from the pandemic. The coalition asks global businesses to join a call for collective action and urge governments to establish policies to reverse nature loss within this decade. Five policy recommendations were also provided to drive post-COVID economic recovery and protection of nature, which can be found here.

Circular economy, not linear economy 

Currently, countries around the world run on a linear economy: we take resources, make products, and when we tire of them or they outlive their usefulness, we throw them away. This take-make-toss model operates as if resources are infinite. However, some business leaders are redefining capitalism as a mechanism to care for the planet instead of taking advantage of it, through demonstrating unity for a circular economy. 

What is a circular economy? It is about rethinking supply chains to minimise waste. This economic model takes the principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle, and scales them throughout society. Read more about case studies on circular economy covered by Green America here.

WFPHA calls for ban on coal for electricity production

The World Federation of Public Health Associations has called for a ban on coal for electricity production due to its cost and detrimental health effects. Research consistently demonstrates that coal communities and workers have higher rates of lung cancer, asthma, coal workers’ pneumoconiosis as well as chronic heart, respiratory, kidney, and cardiopulmonary diseases. Coal mining, transport and burning produces many toxic air pollutants, and is a major contributor to the tragic statistic that 90% of people on Earth breathe polluted air, causing 4.2 million deaths per year. Read more about the call to ban coal here.

Support Croakey to continue their coverage of climate and health

Croakey Health Media provides independent, in-depth coverage of health issues, including their excellent coverage of all things climate change and health. Croakey is asking for support so they can provide regular, in-depth coverage of the health impacts of climate change, taking a local, national and global approach. 

Already, their regular donors have enabled Croakey to publish Carbon footprints, pathology, hospital food, air pollution and other news in sustainable healthcare and Dear Australia, elegy for a summer of loss. If you would like to become a regular donor and support independent, health-focused journalism, please support Croakey through their Patreon account.


Support Vets for Climate Action

Check out new CAHA member Vets for Climate Action's Twitter account to see their cute campaign for climate action!

Call for young people to participate in Deakin's Mental Health and Climate Change Study

Researchers at Deakin University want to better understand mental health in our climate-impacted world. If you are aged 18-24 and living in Australia, please complete this online survey. It should only take around 10 minutes. If you're not 18-24, please share the survey link to the young people you know so they can share their experience!

Are you a healthcare worker living or working in the Latrobe Valley? Healthy Futures needs your help!

Healthy Futures are looking for healthcare workers living or working in the Latrobe Valley to complete this survey about attitudes towards environmental determinants of health. Click here to fill out the survey and/or share it with healthcare workers you know in the area. 

Climate change is a health emergency

We're calling on our elected representatives to act on climate to protect our health. Please join us by signing the petitionClick here to read more about our campaign.

If your organisation would like to learn more about what making a climate health emergency declaration means, please get in touch with our team here.


Gippsland Air Quality and Health Forum

Wednesday, 26 August 2020 - virtual and at Latrobe Regional Hospital

Healthy Futures, in partnership with Asthma Australia and the Lung Foundation Australia, are organising a forum on air quality and health in Gippsland, Victoria on Wed 26 August, both online via Zoom (7pm-8pm AEST) and in person at Latrobe Regional Hospital (6.30pm-8pm AEST). This forum will introduce healthcare workers and other interested members of the public in Gippsland to health impacts of air pollution, sources of air pollution and gauge interest in advocacy to reduce it. Register here and invite your family and friends through the Facebook event.

American Climate Leadership Summit 

Thursdays, 6-27 August 2020 - virtual

American Climate Leadership Summit 2020 will now be a 100% virtual live event on each Thursday during the month of August. Each session is three hours, featuring thought-provoking topics and speakers in an engaging and interactive online experience. Day 1 will cover the status quo of climate crises, Day 2 will cover multi-solving and driving change, Day 3 is on getting the future we want, and Day 4 will be about catalysing climate action. Register here.

Sustainable Development Goals, Climate Change and Cities Symposium

30 September - 2 October 2020

University of Melbourne's Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning (ABP) and the Connected Cities Lab; with partners the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia and the Banksia Foundation, are hosting the inaugural virtual ABP Symposium, which will focus on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This symposium features interactive workshop sessions, breakout rooms, keynotes and opportunities for delegates to connect across time zones. The summit will showcase the role cities and their urban partners are playing in implementing the SDGs. Find more information here and register here.

Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health Aotearoa Webinar Series 

Tuesdays (fortnightly), June to October 2020 - virtual

This webinar series, focused on sustainable healthcare and climate health, is presented by The University of Otago, Sustainable Health Sector National Network, New Zealand Climate and Health Council and Global Green and Healthy Hospitals. Each webinar will air fortnightly at 4pm (NZST) on Tuesdays. Find the webinar series programme here and register here.

Bushfire smoke and health: Symposium

8-9 October 2020 - Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Glebe, NSW

The Centre for Air Pollution, Energy and Health Research (CAR) are hosting a two-day symposium to discuss evidence and policy around the effects of smoke from bushfires and planned burns. This event will bring together stakeholders, scientists, managers and policy makers to discuss the complexities, science, values and trade-offs in risk management, and the ways forward for land, fire and smoke management in Australia. Day 1 will involve a research workshop. An interactive policy forum will be held on Day 2. CAR are now accepting abstracts for the program. Register here. 

World One Health Congress

30 October - 3 November 2020 - virtual

The 6th World Health Congress 2020 will be held virtually. This one-week event will cover topics including One Health Science, antimicrobial resistance, science-policy interface, COVID-19, global health security and vaccinations. There will be special partner sessions and keynote lectures by various health experts. More info here.

CODA 2021

April 19-23 2021 - Melbourne

CODA 2020 has been postponed until April 19 - 23, 2021. CODA is a global health community aiming to make a real and lasting difference to world health and patient experiences. This event focuses on interactive sessions to empower attendees to take action to tackle climate change and make healthcare more sustainable. Find out more here.

In Case You Missed It...

AMSA Code Green Greening Hospitals Hackathon

CAHA member Australian Medical Students' Association's (AMSA) Code Green initiative hosted a 3-day sustainable healthcare hackathon event on July 17-19, 2020, where 120+ participants from many disciplines (Medicine, Engineering, Environmental Science, Law, Commerce and more) came together to tackle the big challenges in sustainable healthcare - how to make hospitals more sustainable on a national level. 

The winning project, "Changing Menus, Changing Minds" aims to reduce food waste as well as meat consumption in hospitals to lower their carbon footprint. The second project, "Low Carbon Pharma" developed a clinician decision support tool to be integrated into existing prescribing software, aiming to provide alternate company or drug options with lower carbon emissions. The third project, "The Territory Table", aimed at providing locally sourced, pre-made meals to hospital staff. Congratulations to AMSA for one of the biggest sustainability Hackathons in Australia for 2020, and thank you to Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation for providing grant prizes for the winning teams to take their ideas to the next level! 

A Health Recovery: Charting the path forward webinar

Leading medical and health organisations from around the world gathered for a webinar on July 15th titled "A Healthy Recovery: Charting the path forward". 

The webinar provided an overview of COVID-19 government responses, how these investments can support our future health and wellbeing from a health, economic, and sustainability perspective, and key steps governments should take to deliver a Healthy Recovery. Watch the full recording of the webinar here.

ConNetica online seminar series - COVID-19 and mental health

CAHA member ConNetica has released a series of online seminars covering various aspects of the impact of COVID-19 on mental health around the world. Each seminar discusses a different country or area of the globe and the unique impacts that the pandemic has had there. View the recordings here.

Research and Reports

Planetary health: young academics ask universities to act

Young academics from around the world are calling on Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to acknowledge the complex relationships between the environment and human health through education, research, and advocacy. This unparalleled opportunity highlights HEIs' responsibility to shape a planet-sensitive society. 

The Planetary Health Alliance (PHA) is supporting calls from PHA campus ambassadors to HEIs worldwide to ensure the health of present and future generations by committing to five actions: 1. Support interdisciplinary and action-oriented research endeavours; 2. Ensure that planetary health curricula are embedded in all programmes and faculties; 3. Join the consortium of institutions that have committed to fossil fuel divestment; 4. Promote delivery and attendance of virtual education and; 5. Actively shape public discourses by effectively communicating scientific research. Read more in the Lancet Planetary Health here.

Pandemics as a result of destruction of nature  

A new WWF COVID-19 Report warns that the risk of a new wildlife-to-human disease emerging in the future is higher than ever, with the potential to wreak havoc on health, economies and global security. The report urges all governments to introduce and enforce laws to eliminate the destruction of nature from supply chains of goods and to encourage the public to make their diets more sustainable. 

Life and health re-imagined 

A new VicHealth paper written by Professor Sharon Friel and Professor Fran Baum on 'Equity during recovery' calls for a series of measures to protect Australian society against social and health inequities during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.  

Issues to be considered include addressing digital inequities to support telehealth, learning from the effective leadership of Aboriginal community controlled health services, keeping positive social welfare changes in place, addressing systemic issues of poor working conditions, reducing the education gap, and addressing ongoing structural racism and discrimination in Australia. Learn more here.

Renewables-led economic recovery for Australia

A report by Ernst and Young, commissioned by WWF, states that a renewables-led economic recovery will create almost three times as many jobs as a fossil fuel-led recovery. ABC outlined how $2 billion of stimulus money can create tens of thousands of new jobs in Australia. Watch on ABC News here.

Health and sustainability in post-pandemic economic policies

Research published in Nature Sustainability suggests that health and sustainability should be at the heart of the economic response of the COVID-19 pandemic. A narrow focus on fighting the recession could have adverse effects on the environment and health, as shown in previous crises. Implementing an integrated economic response that achieve multiple goals — health, environmental sustainability, employment and equitable socioeconomic recovery — should be pursued. Read more here.

Mental health in a changing climate 

A review by the Association of Commonwealth Universities covers recent research on how climate change can trigger mental health problems such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, survivor guilt and substance abuse. Climate change also increases and amplifies existing inequalities which disproportionately affect those who are already marginalised in society.

Furthermore, the general public are faced with an overwhelming threat of ecological disaster. Eco-anxiety is an emerging concept that describes this fear for the future world we face. However, there may be a silver lining behind these negative impacts: the sense of community and shared purpose that emerges among those seeking solutions, which can bring positivity and hope. Learn more here. 

Health Care Without Harm Global Report-2019 

CAHA's international partner, Health Care Without Harm, was founded 24 years ago to work at the intersection of human health and the environment. The work they have undertaken in 2019 with doctors, nurses, hospitals, health systems, ministries of health and United Nations organisations around the world has achieved positive results. These global programs are accelerating the reduction of healthcare greenhouse gas emissions, building greater health system resilience, protecting people from the health impacts of biomedical waste, and reducing the social and environmental footprint of healthcare’s supply chain. Check out their 2019 report here.


Listen to BaU Podcast: Episode 7 on Climate Health

Our Executive Director Fiona Armstrong features in a recent interview with the Business as Usual (BaU) podcast. BaU speaks to the people behind the movements, organisations and ideas that are shifting the way we think, interact and transact. Listen to Fiona's interview on climate change and health here.

Free online course on IUCN Red List of Ecosystems 

Available Now - virtual

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems is the global standard for ecosystem risk assessment, used by governments, NGOs, scientists and practitioners to sustain biodiversity worldwide. If you're interested in understanding the Red List of Ecosystems processes and assessments, join this free course by Deakin University, run by Emily Nicholson, a co-leader of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems.

The Health Effects of Climate Change

Harvard University via edX

This 7-week online course run by Harvard University online covers everything you need to know about climate change and health. From nutrition, migration, infectious diseases and air quality, and it's free! Time commitment is 3-5 hours a week, and the course starts 2 September. Sign up here.


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