Climate and Health News November 2019
Welcome to the November Climate and Health News! This edition is packed full of news, events and information, keeping you up to date with what’s happening, as well as resources for you to take action, including becoming a CAHA member or donating to CAHA to support our work!
2019: A big year for climate change advocacy
As 2019 comes to a close, it's amazing to think how far advocacy for action on climate change has come. While many people have been working on this issue for years, it feels like 2019 has been the year that it has filtered into the collective public consciousness.
School students took up the cause of fighting for their futures back in March, inspired by one incredible 16-year old. By September, millions of people across the globe joined these young people to show their support and push for action. Throughout the year, Greta Thunberg has inspired us with her moving speeches and continuous commitment to real action. Scientists are continuing to push to make their voices heard. We've learnt more about the impacts of our diets and how to care for the planet and our own health through what we eat.
The Lancet Countdown 2019 report has been released, evaluating how nations are responding to the health impacts of climate change. This year's Countdown focuses on the lives of today's children in the face of a future with climate change. Today's children will experience a profoundly different world where climate change may come to define the health of people at all stages of life. However, if warming is limited to well below 2 degrees, a child today could live in a world of net-zero emissions by their 31st birthday! Read our full write-up below for more information.
Devastating bushfires are raging across New South Wales and Queensland, with both states declaring a state of emergency. Yet there has been denial and ignorance to the connection to climate change from Australia's political leaders. In contrast to this, those on the front line have been aware of the risks for many years. A large group of former heads of Australia's fire services, the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, have been trying to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison for months to no avail. Read more about the impact of climate change and bushfires here.
New South Wales has experienced its highest ever levels of air pollution recorded, while Sydney was ranked in the top 10 most polluted cities in the world. This article in the BBC gives a comprehensive overview of the health impacts of bushfire related air pollution.
Attempting to convey the urgency of the climate crisis can be difficult. However, the reality is that climate change is largely a human issue. This article in The Conversation argues that to make people sit up and listen, climate change needs to be presented as what it is - a threat to health, peace and prosperity.
In a similar vein, The Guardian are changing how they present images of the climate crisis. Instead of polar bears and pandas, there will be more images like the one above depicting the human impact.
In September 2019, the Australian Medical Association declared climate change a health emergency. On November 21st, the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine followed suit, each declaring climate change a public health emergency. Listen to representatives from RACP, ACEM, and ACCRM discussing this declaration as they call on state and federal governments to implement a national strategy on climate, health and well-being.
If your organisation is interested in declaring climate change a public health emergency, please let us know as we can provide support.
Helping those with climate induced mental health issues - and the psychological impact of Australia's bushfires
It is important that health professionals have an understanding of the acute impact that natural disasters can have on mental health. Dr Caban-Aleman, a psychiatrist and associate professor at Florida International University shares ways that health professionals can help those suffering from poor mental health following extreme weather events.
These impacts on mental health are currently being felt across Australia due to the extensive bushfires, with almost 400 incidents of psychological first aid being provided in Queensland alone. Listen to clinical psychologist David Younger discussing the toll bushfires can take on mental health.
Listen to Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of CAHA and Dr Marianne Cannon, Emergency Physician, discussing the many health hazards associated with climate change in Australia.
Marianne and Fiona also discuss why those in health care are stepping up to fight climate change and the need for hospitals to become climate ready.
On the anniversary of the UN’s seminal report on climate change, American Association of Medical Colleges is exploring the impact of a warming Earth on health and health care.
Trees are increasingly recognised as a necessary weapon in fighting the climate crisis. City councils around the world are starting to implement green changes, with Melbourne City Council pledging to plant more than 3000 trees each year to 2040. The benefits of trees are multiple, including reducing temperatures in built-up areas, drawing in carbon from the atmosphere and improving air quality.
The carbon footprint of asthma: How much responsibility should we place on individuals?
A recent article in the BBC revealed that metered dose asthma inhalers contribute to 4% of the NHS's total carbon emissions. They call for individual consumers to speak with their doctors about the possibility of switching to a "greener" inhaler. However Karen Willison, disability editor at The Mighty, calls for a focus on the bigger picture and points to the need for global action by governments, companies and institutions to solve the crisis.
A Lancet Planetary Health study released earlier this year showed that the pollen season in the Northern Hemisphere is going to increase due to climate change. And now there are concerns that the same, or worse, could happen in Australia.
Australian Environment Ministers will next year decide on new air pollution standards for three dangerous pollutants connected to the burning of fossil fuels: nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone.
These pollutants can have harmful effects on people’s health -- even at levels well below Australia’s current standards.
We need strong, health-based air pollution standards to reduce the risk and harm to people’s health these pollutants cause, and to accelerate the transition away from dirty fossil fuels to clean, safer technologies.
Right now we have a chance to secure stronger air pollution standards. Will you sign the petition asking all Australian Environment Ministers to cut air pollution and protect our climate and our health by supporting stronger standards?
CAHA is pleased to welcome the Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) to its membership. CHF is the leading advocacy organisation for health consumers in Australia.
1 December 2019 - Brunswick East, Melbourne
Repower Health, an initiative of Healthy Futures, is hosting workshop where you can hear from experts in sustainable healthcare, including CAHA's Carol Behne, and learn about reducing your health service's carbon footprint.
5 December 2019 - State Administrative Tribunal, Perth
The Western Australia Department of Health are currently conducting Climate and Health public hearings. These hearings began on 3 October and will run until 12 December. Our Executive Director Fiona Armstrong will be presenting on 5 December - you can register to attend the session here.
5 December 2019 - The Niche, Nedlands
Join CAHA and Doctors for the Environment Australia in WA to discuss how climate change will impact population health and the health sector in WA and the responsibilities, risks and opportunities it will bring.
This forum will provide:
- an overview of the risks and opportunities posed by climate change in relation to climate change and health, including legal liability;
- an insight into climate and health policy around Australia and internationally;
- an update on the Climate Health WA Inquiry;
- a discussion about pathways forward in climate and health in W.A.
- Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director, Climate and Health Alliance
- Dr Kingsley Faulkner, Co-Chair, Doctors for the Environment Australia
- Tarun Weeramanthri, Chair of the WA Climate Health Inquiry
- Carolyn Dearing, Watershed Legal
7 December 2019 - Madrid, Spain
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, will be taking place in Madrid from 2-13 December. A highlight during the conference will be the Global Climate and Health Summit, on 7 December, convened by the World Health Organisation and the Global Climate and Health Alliance. The summit aims to raise awareness of the role that health professionals can play, facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration and increase capacity for a response to this vital issue. CAHA will have three delegates at COP25 - Dr Ingrid Johnston (Director, CAHA and Senior Policy Officer, PHAA), Milly Burgess (Operations & Project Support Officer, CAHA) and Rashmi Venkatraman (Doctorate of Public Health Candidate, University of London).
Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation - Inspiring Philanthropy Celebration
21 November, 2019 - Melbourne
Our Executive Director Fiona Armstrong was one of two keynote speakers at the recent Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation's Inspiring Philanthropy Celebration event in Melbourne. Fiona spoke about the health impacts of climate change, detailed CAHA's work on this issue and highlighted the opportunities for change that further philanthropy could unlock in this space.
Climate and Health Champions - Tasmanian Workshop
13 November, 2019 - Hobart
In November, CAHA rolled out our first Climate and Health Champion workshop in Tasmania. We had an inspiring group of over 20 health professionals and public servants join our workshop in Hobart. Some exciting activities on climate and health are already underway in Tasmania, and it was great to hear about people's experiences and exchange ideas for further influencing action on climate change and health.
If you are interested in taking part in a Climate and Health Champions training, you can let us know here and we will be in touch.
The 2019 Lancet Countdown looks at the impacts of climate change over the lifespan of today's children. Malnutrition and lack of access to affordable food are already issues for infants and families. Crop yields have decreased in the last 30 years and they will continue to do so - leading to long-term developmental problems. Infectious diseases such as dengue are on the rise. As today's children become adolescents, air pollution will continue to worsen due to fossil fuels causing increased asthma, heart attacks and stroke. Into adulthood, they will be exposed to more frequent and intense extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and wildfires, and the direct and indirect impacts that come from these.
Despite this dire outlook, the Countdown reveals that if emissions reductions targets are set to meet the Paris Agreement pathway, a net-zero emissions world is possible by the time today's children are aged only 31. However, this will require wide-scale, urgent and unprecedented action.
Take a look at the full report to see how the authors have tracked the relationship between climate change and health across five key domains and 41 indicators, and to see their recommendations for action.
Read The Guardian's excellent summary of the Countdown here.
To coincide with the global report, an Australian-specific report has also been released in Medical Journal of Australia. Similar to the main report, the MJA-Lancet countdown assessed progress on climate change and health in Australia based on 31 indicators. The report finds that progress across different sectors in Australia has been mixed, but that national policies are necessary and urgent. Read the full report here. Congratulations to Dr Ying Zhang (CAHA Director), Georgia Behrens (AMSA) and Paul Beggs for their work on the MJA-Lancet report!
JAMA Network Open is calling for submissions of research relating to the health outcomes and risks associated with climate change. This includes the health outcomes associated with heat and air pollution, impacts on mental health and infectious diseases. They are also calling for research which looks at innovative strategies from healthcare systems aiming to ameliorate the impacts of climate change and protect the population.
For more information and guidelines, click here.
This recently released editorial in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia discusses the importance of health promotion in addressing the impacts of climate change on health. The authors - Rebecca Patrick (CAHA Vice President), Fiona Armstrong (CAHA Executive Director), Trevor Hancock (University of Victoria, School of Public Health), Anthony Capon (Director, Monash Sustainable Development Institute), and James Smith (Menzies School of Health Research) also focus on the many opportunities that come from transitioning towards a future facing climate change, such an technological innovations and the many job opportunities these will create. Further, the authors also recommend that health promotion practitioners acknowledge the ties between ecological and social aspects of health and focus on this in their work.
"If the global health care sector were a country, it would be the 5th largest emitter on the planet"
A new report by our international partner Health Care Without Harm and Arup details the impact that health care is having on the planet through food, energy use, transport and anaesthetic gases. It argues for the need to transform the health care sector to reduce its impact and align it with the Paris Agreement 1.5 degree goal, while maintaining the goal of providing universal health coverage.
Read more about the report here.
This new report from the Actuaries Institute highlights the impacts that climate change in Australia is going to have not only on health but on security during retirement. The report focuses on the effects of heatwaves but also highlights that superannuation and retirement income will be considerably reduced.
We mentioned above in our round-up of the year that Australian councils have begun declaring a climate emergency, but what is this and is it really necessary to declare? Here, Paul Gilding, Fellow at University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, discusses what a climate emergency is and the profound impacts of choosing not to take action.
This newsletter is brought to you by us at the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA).
Did you know individuals, as well as organisations, can join CAHA? If you like what we do, and would like to support our work, please join and become a member of the Climate and Health Alliance. You will be joining a dynamic effort to ensure people's health and well-being is central to national and global efforts to respond to the climate crisis.
Please contact the Climate and Health Alliance if you have any upcoming events, or other information to include in our next newsletter.