Climate and Health News April 2021

Welcome to the April Climate and Health News! Enjoy this edition of the newsletter, and make sure you follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the loop! If you have climate and health news to share, please write to us.

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News

Climate and health in Parliament House 

On 16 March, we took over 30 health leaders to Parliament House to deliver a unanimous message: It’s time for a national strategy on climate, health and well-being.

Our coalition of health professionals met with 33 federal parliamentarians to discuss why Australia needs a national strategy to manage and mitigate the health impacts of climate change.

There was keen interest in hearing the experience and perspective of practicing health professionals. It was encouraging to see support for the National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-Being.

Building on this work, this year we'll be activating health professionals and groups ahead of the federal election to make ourselves heard in the media and in Parliament: Climate change is the biggest health threat of the century, and we need a national strategy on climate, health and well-being right now. Read more here.

First-ever guide to zero emissions healthcare 

Last week, the Global Road Map to Healthcare Decarbonisation was launched. The Road Map, produced by Health Care Without Harm and Arup, is the first-ever guide showing how the global healthcare sector can achieve zero emissions by 2050. "The road map shows how the health sector can achieve zero emissions and uphold its moral imperative to 'do no harm'. Many health institutions in Australia are working to reduce their emissions, and this road map provides a comprehensive guide for how to rapidly scale this up," says Carol Behne, Sustainable Healthcare Program Manager at CAHA. "But we must see government policy to guide and help accelerate these efforts."

Check out the full roadmap here and some great media coverage here.

Health must be put at the heart of national climate plans 

The theme for World Health Day 2021 (7 April) was "building a fairer, healthier world for everyone". A country with a healthy commitment to climate action will recognise the health impacts of climate change, and the need for health and equity to be integrated into adaptation planning. Governments must urgently reorient current climate trajectories for the sake of people worldwide, and for generations to come. You can read this article by Jeni Miller from the Global Climate and Health Alliance.

Climate threat overlooked in WA election, say health leaders 

Back in March, we collaborated with WA health and social groups, as well as individual health professionals, to call on the West Australian Government and all candidates to prioritise urgent climate action to protect health. Together, we produced a briefing to provide advice on the priorities from the health  sector ahead of the election, signed by leading health and climate justice groups including CAHA. Read more here.

Health professionals responding to the NSW floods 

Western Sydney GP Dr Kim Loo and Port Macquarie vet Dr Angela Frimberger joined our Canberra delegation in mid-March to speak to politicians about climate change and health. The following week, Loo and Frimberger were dealing first-hand with a severe climate event in NSW and its impacts on their patients.

The devastating NSW floods had severe impacts on local communities: increased number of injuries, incidence of water-borne infections and mosquito-borne infections. Patients may be isolated from health services as practices are interrupted due to inability of local medical practices to travel to work. Health professionals are also concerned about the long-term mental health impacts, especially from a string of extreme weather events, from drought, bushfires, and major floods. Read more here.

Meet some of the health professionals and organisations leading on climate action

'Existential threat to our survival': see the 19 Australian ecosystems already collapsing 

In 2009, scientists described environmental thresholds: planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a “safe space to operate”. Crossing such threshold would cause environmental changes so profound, posing an existential threat to humanity

This recently published paper shows that 19 major ecosystems are collapsing across Australia and into Antarctica, including the arid interior, savannas and mangroves, kelp and alpine ash forests, tundra and moss beds. This is a dire wake-up call — not just a warning. What can be done about it? The authors of this paper devised a simple scheme called the 3As: Awareness of what is important, Anticipation of what is coming down the line and Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts. Read more here.

Microplastics and microbes: have we created a new disease vector?

Microplastic pollution is a global crisis that we are all having to face as a consequence of our own actions. A recent review published in Environmental Microbiome discussed the direct and indirect impact of microplastics on gut and environmental microbiota leading to increased abundance of pathogens that displace the normal, helpful microbiota, causing longstanding health and environmental consequences. They found that microplastics have the potential to become disease vectors, dispersing pathogens from one area to another. Read more here.

Renewables plus batteries offer Australia the same energy security as coal, research finds 

The Australia Institute published an exciting new research showing that batteries and renewables can keep the grid secure as coal power stations retire. The study found that clean technologies provided the fast frequency response service and voltage control needed to secure the energy grid and reduce cost.
However, regulatory barriers currently limit the ability of renewable energy and batteries to provide system security. The thinktank is now calling for new rules governing energy security to allow renewables to better underpin grid reliability. Read more here and find the full report here.

Advocacy

Submission on the draft National Preventive Health Strategy

CAHA has put in a submission on the second draft National Preventive Health Strategy. You may recall that last year the Government released its first draft National Preventive Health Strategy – which did not refer once to climate change. Following a big push from climate and health advocate, the second draft Strategy is an improvement (it mentions climate change) but the main pathway to tackling the health effects of climate change appears to be via a proposed environmental health strategy, which is to be developed by 2030. This is way too far away! If you'd like to put in a submission, the last day is today.

Pathways to Politics Program for Women: Changing the Face of Politics 

In Australia, women are under-represented across all levels of government, business, civil society, and positions of influence. We need to change this now more than ever. The Pathways to Politics Program for Women seeks to increase female participation in politics by equipping women with the skills and knowledge to succeed in running for elected office, and to thrive as political leaders. Applications for the 2021 Program are now open, closing on 7 May 2021. Find out more about the program and apply here.

Tony McMichael Public Health Ecology and Environmental Award

Professor Tony McMichael was a world leader in research and advocacy for incorporating ecological and environmental factors into the field of public health. Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) honours Professor McMichael each year by awarding the Public Health Ecology and Environment Award to someone who has made a significant, discernible contribution in the combined domains of public health and ecology or environmental health.

Applications for this award are now open. Please note that nominators and seconders must be PHAA members, but the nominated person does not need to be a PHAA member.

School Strike for Climate 2021 

CAHA is supporting May 21 Climate Strike by School Strike 4 Climate which aims to make gas "toxic" in the federal election. We know climate change is a public health emergency, and we support the school strikers in calling for the Government to take our collective future seriously. The school strikers say: "We’re striking to tell the Morrison Government that if they care about our future, they must stop throwing money at multinational gas companies which are fuelling the climate crisis, devastating our land and water, wrecking our health and creating very few jobs."

Your organisation can sign the school strike pledge here and find out more about your local strike here.
If you know of any health professionals will to speak to the media about the health impacts of gas, please get in touch.

Join our Facebook group 

Calling all health and medical professionals! Do you want to connect with like-minded professionals, students and enthusiasts, and chat about all things climate and health? Join our Facebook group here.

Join Friends of CAHA (individual membership)

Did you know that individuals, as well as organisations, can join CAHA? You can support our work by becoming a Friend of CAHA and help build a powerful health sector movement for climate action and sustainable healthcare! By joining Friends of CAHA, you will have the opportunity to connect with others who share your interest and concerns, and contribute to ensure our work reflects the everyday experiences of people in the community or on the health frontlines. Join here.

Events

Rural Health Seminar Series: Health Protection Messaging During Bushfires

22 April 2021, 4-5pm AEST, online

The north coast of New South Wales experienced catastrophic bushfires in 2019-2020. Health care providers and public health units have responsibilities to inform the general public, especially those vulnerable, about the possible health consequences of fire events and advise them about protective measures. Presented by Dr Kazi Rahman & Sheriden Keegan, this seminar presents findings from the research on patients’ and providers’ perceptions of the delivery and effectiveness of health protection messages. This seminar will also discuss health protection messaging for smoke events, including appropriate message content and suitable message delivery, with a focus on vulnerable populations. Register here.

Sustainable Health Care Symposium 

22 April 2021, 4-7pm AEST, online

Princess Alexandra Hospital is holding a Sustainable Healthcare Symposium, with excellent speakers including Dr David Pencehon who was the inaugural Director of the UK National Health Service's Sustainable Development Unit for a decade. In this symposium, sustainable health care will be discussed from different angles and at different levels, such as the importance of environmental factors in patient care, implementation of sustainability principles at the hospital and systemic level, sustainability for scientists and the role of health professionals as advocates for change. Register here.

Gender Justice in Disaster: Inspiring Action 

Various dates in May 2021, online

The Gender Justice in Disaster: Inspiring Action conference will bring a gender lens to critical issues of contemporary emergency. It will inspire action at the intersect of gender and sustainable Aboriginal land management, climate change activism, discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people, the representation of women in leadership, violence against women, and more. This conference presents international experts and promises unique insights from gender and emergency management in Australia that are applicable to emergency management in other countries. See the conference program and registration here.

Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference and Wellness Conference 

6-7 May 2021, 8.30am-4pm AEST, online

The ANMF Victorian Branch is holding their Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference (6 May) and Wellness Conference (7 May) will be held online this year. The Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference will focus on new ways to reduce waste, promote sustainability and improve your community. The Wellness Conference will explore practical ideas, methods and concepts which can be used to promote positive health and wellbeing for you, your families and those in your professional life. See agenda and registration here.

Acknowledging Our Grief about Climate Change

8 May 2021, 2-5pm AEST, online

Join this workshop by Psychology for a Safe Climate for those working on climate change as activists, researchers, scientists or policy makers and advocates. This workshop will provide a space for participants to reflect on and express the emotional burden of working on climate change, especially the many faces of grief. There will also be a segment on self care. See workshop details and register here.

Preventive Health Conference 2021 

10-12 May 2021, 9am-6pm AWST, online and face-to-face

The 2021 Preventive Health Conference theme is: 'Facing the new normal for prevention in 2021 and beyond'. The conference will be held as a hybrid conference: in an interactive online format and face-to-face format at the Pan Pacific Perth where permitted. Check out the program outline, abstract and registration options.

In Case You Missed It...

Better Futures Australia: Multi-Sectoral Forum

Last February, representatives from a range of sectors and communities came together to discuss how we can shape our nation’s ambition on climate in the lead up to COP26, including our Executive Director Fiona Armstrong. Watch the recording here.

Update: Public hearings on the Climate Change Bill

The public hearings into the Climate Change Bill were held earlier this year. A broad range of perspectives were heard over the two days, with government departments, business organisations, investor groups, environmental groups and leading scientists taking part. The overwhelming feedback was in support of the Climate Change Bill and stressed the need and economic benefit for the government to take urgent action to limit global warming to 1.5-2 °C. Find recordings of the hearings, experts' written submissions and more details on the inquiry here and read The Guardian's analysis here.

Gen Dread: Fighting the extinction of positive earth emotions

Check out the first part of a two-part interview with Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht, the author of Earth Emotions: New Words for a New WorldAlbrecht is one of Australia's leading thinkers on the climate and environment crisis, and this interview discussed terms and concepts that more aptly describe our relationship with a changing earth.

New Interactive Database: European Climate and Health Observatory

The European Climate and Health Observatory just launched a brand new interactive databaseproviding easy access to a treasure trove of evidence, resources, case studies, policy examples and more on climate change and health. This database focuses on Europe only, but there will be more updates on a global database for climate & health coming later this year.

Research and Reports

New CAHA report: What will Australia look like in 2030? 

CAHA is proud to share our new publication, Australia in 2030 - Possible Alternative Futures, outlining five scenarios which could await us in 2030, depending on the choices we make as a society. To develop the scenarios, we brought together 100+ thought leaders and futures experts last year to offer their expertise and unique perspectives. We are very proud of the result!

The report and scenarios were launched in Melbourne during the 2021 Sustainable Living Festival – check out the highlights reel!

Health Professionals and the Climate Crisis: Trusted Voices, Essential Roles 

This recently published essay in World Medical and Health Policy points to climate change as a health crisis, and demonstrates how health professionals can respond to it. The essay makes the case that the voices of health professionals can help create the political will necessary to effectively address the climate crisis.

Predicting the Importance of Global Warming as a Voting Issue Among Registered Voters in the United States

Understanding the importance of global warming to voters is vital to build public and political will for climate action. Using data from two nationally representative surveys of American registered voters, this paper investigated a variety of cognitive, experiential, socio-cultural, and sociodemographic predictors of two measures of perceived importance of global warming as a voting issue: absolute importance and relative importance. Read the paper here.

The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world  

The Australian Academy of Science has published a landmark report that explores the risks to our future based on the current global trajectory to a 3°C warmer world. This report focuses on the consequences of 3°C of global warming in the absence of greater mitigation strategies for four areas of importance to Australia’s future: our ecosystems, food production, cities and towns, and health and wellbeing. The impacts of those changes on the lives and wellbeing of Australians are discussed in detail. For more information, read this article in The Conversation and watch the summary video.

Urban agriculture as a nature-based solution to address socio-ecological challenges in Australian cities

This short communication paper explores urban agriculture in Australia as a potential 'nature-based solution' to address our upcoming ecological, social, economic and health challenges. The authors argue that urban agriculture has the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change extremes while simultaneously providing multiple benefits such as improving wellbeing, people-nature connections, and food security, based on three exemplar case studies diverse in geography, context and governance from Queensland, Tasmania, and New South Wales.

Close the Gap

The Health Advocate is a magazine for members of the Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association, available to read and download here. February's edition focused on 'Closing the Gap', featuring articles on rapid service design and cultural safety, Ask the Specialists (a cultural education podcast), co-design in oral health and learning through healing.

Regeneration: Growing New Farmers

Farmer Incubator and Young Farmers Connect have conducted feasibility research into  supporting future regenerative farmers in Australia. Their research is developing an understanding of the structural and systemic challenges faced by farmers, how international initiatives may address these challenges, and other ways to support the next generation of farmers. To tackle challenges such as access to land, capital and hands-on regenerative farming, multi-pronged initiatives are necessary and require collaboration across a wide range of stakeholders.

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This newsletter is brought to you by the team at the Climate and Health Alliance.

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