Climate and Health News February 2021
Welcome to the first Climate and Health News in 2021! We hope this is a safe and happy year for everyone, featuring lots of climate leadership and action!
At CAHA, we have lots in store for 2021, kicking off with the launch of our 'Australia in 2030' scenarios in February, a Climate and Health in Canberra joint sector advocacy trip in March, and a Better Futures Australia Health Sector Roundtable in April. We'll also be involved in WHO Regional Consultations on Climate and Health in April or May. The pace is picking up!
Rewrite the Future: Possible Alternative Futures for Australia in 2030
Good news stories from 2020
There’s been so much loss, grief and heartbreak in 2020. However, there were also big wins for conservation, living standards, peace, safety and human rights, clean energy, and even global health. Progress isn’t a straight line and it doesn’t happen by magic. These are the stories of people who, even during the darkest of times, believe that it’s possible to make the world a better place. Off the back of a difficult year, we think it’s more important than ever to celebrate them. Read about them here.
President Joe Biden rejoins the Paris climate accord in first move to tackle global warming
President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to rejoin the U.S. into the Paris climate agreement; his first major action to tackle global warming as he brings the largest team of climate change experts ever into the White House. The Biden Administration has cancelled the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and signed additional orders to reverse former President Donald Trump’s weakening of environmental protections. Read more on Biden's attempt to move quickly on climate action here.
France taken to court over 'climate inaction' in landmark case
A court in Paris will hear a landmark case accusing the French government of taking inadequate action to combat climate change. The case is part of a lawsuit launched two years ago by four NGOs, including Greenpeace France and Oxfam France, following an online petition that gathered 2.3 million signatures — the largest in French history, according to the organisers. Legal action on climate change has become a global phenomenon — lawsuits had been launched against governments and corporate interests in 28 countries by July 2019. Read more here.
More than 50 countries commit to protection of 30% of Earth's land and oceans
The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, which includes the UK and countries from six continents, made the pledge to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans before the One Planet summit in Paris. Protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade is crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water. The UK government has committed £3bn of UK international climate finance to supporting nature and biodiversity over the next five years. Read more here.
FIFA urged to highlight global issue at 2023 Women’s World Cup
Retired Socceroo player Craig Foster, along with 17 environment groups, has sent an open letter to the Secretary General of FIFA, Fatma Samoura, asking her to “use the extraordinary power of global football” to encourage action on climate change. Foster said the Women’s World Cup, being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2023, is an incredible opportunity to further the agenda in sport globally and to make a major contribution to the world. The letter calls on FIFA to work with Foster and the signatories to co-ordinate messages and programs for a “climate action World Cup”. Climate and Health Alliance is pleased to be a signatory supporting this initiative. Read more here.
Hidden epidemics: dangerous heat, unequal consequences
Heat-related illnesses are soaring in Arizona and Florida as the planet warms. Arizona is considered the hottest state in the US with more than 140 days over 100°F last year alone. In Florida, the combination of heat and humidity makes it one of the nation’s most dangerous places. Poor communities are bearing the brunt of sickening heat — emergency room visits and hospitalisations in Arizona and Florida have higher rates of heat-related illnesses in areas with less income. Read more on how the changing climate disproportionately affects the health of historically disadvantaged populations here.
'Heat refuges' may be one solution to Western Sydney's climate emergency
Last summer, Western Sydney residents sweated through 37 days over 35°C. Heat is causing major headaches for Sydney's most populous local government area, Blacktown, which is trying to convince organisations to create "heat refuges". A heat refuge is a cool zone with good air-conditioning and facilities where the community can go on an extreme heat day to comfortably relax if they cannot at home. The strategy aims to ensure vulnerable residents, those who are elderly or living with disability and without air-conditioning, can access shelter from heatwaves. Read more about the heat refuge program here.
Aiming for net-zero healthcare - and pharmaceuticals
Healthcare is one of the biggest polluting industries, with a climate footprint of 4.4% of global net emissions . If the health sector were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter in the world. Recent research reveals the pharma industry emits 55% more greenhouse gas emissions than the automotive sector, yet very few pharma companies have made carbon neutral pledges. Along with the National Health Service in the UK, and the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network, the pharmaceutical industry is making some steps towards net zero. Read why we should all be asking them to do more here.
Increased CO2 levels could be risk to young lungs, Australian scientists find
Australian researchers have found that elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in line with many climate predictions, could harm the development of young lungs, after observing the impacts of predicted conditions on mice. In the study, mice experienced diminished lung function and greater difficulty breathing when raised in a high carbon dioxide environment. The research team simulated an atmosphere with 900 parts per million of carbon dioxide, levels predicted to occur by the end of the century under many emissions scenarios. Read more here.
Solar power outshines old records despite gloom of pandemic
Solar power continues to shine despite the coronavirus downturn, with every state and territory except Tasmania breaking records for installed capacity of large-scale and rooftop solar last year. Australia’s solar power capacity grew 33 per cent to 20 gigawatts, from 15 gigawatts in 2019, according to solar consultant SunWiz. Australia has the highest per capita capacity of solar power in the world and rooftop solar capacity has exceeded 30 per cent growth for the past four years. Read more here.
Biden shows we don’t have to choose between climate action and jobs
There is a prevailing narrative among many political leaders that we can have jobs, or we can have a healthy environment, but we can’t have both. However, in the US, President Biden has announced a climate plan that will create hundreds of thousands of well-paid and secure jobs that are necessary to solve the climate crisis. Far from accepting a jobs-versus-environment trope, the President tackles it head on, stating: “When I think of climate change, I think about jobs. Good-paying, union jobs that put Americans to work, make our air cleaner, and rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure.” Read more here.
The role of the medical colleges in tackling climate change
The health sector must put its own house in order, and lead by example, when it comes to climate change, Medical Journal of Australia editor Nick Talley wrote in 2020. The Chairs of the Medical Colleges in Victoria met in late 2020 to discuss the role of the medical colleges in responding to climate change.
Recommended actions include: divesting from fossil fuels, reducing the carbon footprint of clinics, avoiding unnecessary tests and treatment, ensuring climate change is included in medical curricula, and being a role model for the profession and the community. Read more here.
The urgent need to transform healthcare education to address climate change
A new study calls for urgent education in sustainable health and care to equip current and future generations of health professionals with critical competencies to mitigate and adapt to these detrimental impacts. “Educating the healthcare workforce to address these challenges is critically important,” planetary health expert and Monash academic Professor Anthony Capon said. “Climate change and health needs to be an essential part of the curriculum for all Australian health professionals.” Read more here.
The verdict on Australia’s emissions targets: catastrophic
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been at pains to create the impression that he supports a net-zero emissions target for 2050, but he won’t formally commit to it. Our Paris commitment to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from a 2005 base was political and it is inadequate to meet the Paris objective. A 26 per cent target is consistent with global warming of about 3 degrees and much more in Australia.
If we are to have any chance of reaching the tighter objective of the Paris Agreement, and upon which our Pacific island neighbours rely for their survival, namely to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, then we must get to net zero emissions by 2035, with a 74 per cent cut by 2030. Read more here.
How prioritising health could help rebuild economies
McKinsey Global Institute report Prioritizing health: A prescription for prosperity shows that improving health could be a societal and economic game changer. There are four key lessons from the pandemic to build a healthier future: make health a key part of economic-growth discussions, invest in health to build greater resilience, promote social and economic equity by improving health and build on the innovation momentum sparked by the COVID-19 crisis to address other health conditions.
As the world confronts the pandemic, it has a once-in-a-generation opportunity not merely to restore the past but also to advance broad-based health and prosperity dramatically. Read more here.
Australia's summers are getting hotter, drier and longer. Communities in our cities are facing searing heat that is changing the way we work, live and play. Sweltering Cities is mapping the biggest challenges to keeping cool, safe and healthy in the heat. Share your experiences of heat and heatwaves and tell your thoughts to help win more sustainable, equitable and liveable cities. Use this link if you're based in Sydney, and this link for Melburnians.
The Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action's (NAGA) Exploring Vulnerabilities project aims to assess how prepared communities are for climate change, identify gaps, and suggest how these gaps could be addressed. NAGA is a network operating across nine local government areas in northern metropolitan Melbourne. Share how your community is coping with climate change by completing this survey.
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 inform our work and ensure it reflects the everyday experiences of people in the community, or on the healthcare frontline. Join here.
Climate Engagement: Psychological Challenges and Community Conversations
18 February, 16:00 - 17:00 AEDT, online
The University Centre for Rural Health in Lismore is hosting a Zoom seminar with Dr Sally Gillespie, writer of Climate Crisis and Consciousness. Drawing upon her experience as a Jungian psychotherapist and a researcher in the field of climate psychology, Sally Gillespie will talk about the challenges, openings and transformations of engaging with climate and ecological crises. Sally will also discuss other strategies and activities which research has demonstrated helps to safeguard psychological wellbeing for climate campaigners and researchers. Register here.
Rewrite the Future: Possible Alternative Futures for Australia in 2030
22 February, 18:00 - 19:30 AEDT at Fitzroy Town Hall (and online)
WA Introduction to Advocacy online training
18:30 - 20:00 AWST, Tuesday 23 February
With Doctors for the Environment, CAHA is running a 90-minute training for health professionals in West Australia interested in developing their skills to promote action on climate and health ahead of the upcoming WA State Election. The training is free to attend and will cover: Overview of the impacts of climate change on health by Dr. Brett Montgomery (GP); Introduction to community organising by Jaime Yallup Farrant (Climate Justice Union); and Advocacy tips and resources by Jessica Rosien (Climate and Health Alliance). The training will be run via Zoom from 6:30-8pm AWST, Tuesday, 23 February. Register here.
Cranlana Executive Ethics Program 2021
Various dates, face-to-face and online
Join a masterclass in ethical leadership, designed to help you build better organisations. The program is shaped in two parts: 1. Ethics and the Individual, and 2. Ethics and Organisation. This program will help you make the right decision when you face competing interests, conflicting advice, partial information and tight deadlines.
Planning a Just Recovery for the Territory
22-23 February at Charles Darwin University
Disaster Planning & Mass Casualty Incidents
24 February, 18:30 - 20:30 AEDT, online
Hosted by Ambulance Victoria, this program will promote collaborative efforts and networking among members of the trauma community and showcase the expertise and available resources in trauma care in Victoria. These events are open to all healthcare professionals. This is a virtual event and will be live-streamed, however, you must register in order to receive a certificate of attendance for CPD. Register here.
Media Training 101 for Health Professionals
3 March, 17:00 - 18:15 and 8 April 2021, 11:00 - 12:15 AEDT, online
Health professionals are powerful messengers for building public support for climate action. CAHA is running 75-minute online media training sessions for health professionals interested in developing their skills in order to speak with the media on climate change and health. The training is free and will be run via Zoom on Wednesday 3 March and Thursday 8 April. Click on the date you are able to attend to register.
Climate Essentials: Climate change mitigation via removal of atmospheric greenhouse gases
16-18 March, 9:00 - 12:30 AEDT, online
This professional short course brings together leading researchers from across the university and industry experts. It has been designed for professionals who want to learn about the options Australia has for deploying negative emissions technologies (NETs). It will cover why NETs are important, the technologies and practices available, as well as considerations for the implementation of NETs including communication and governance. Find program details and register here.
April - Melbourne
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...
CRANAplus Webinars: Mental health training for health professionals
Watch a series of CRANAplus webinars providing mental health guidance by a range of mental health specialists, especially for health professionals in drought and bushfire affected communities. Each webinar runs for 30-50 minutes and can be watched at your own pace. The series covers a range of topics from understanding the disruption of drought and bushfires, stress and trauma, culture and privilege, to positive psychological tools for you and your clients. Watch the webinar series here.
Webinar: Climate Change, Extreme Weather and Health
Tune into this recording of CAHA's expert webinar on climate change-fuelled extreme weather events and our health. Hear from Dr Simon Bradshaw (Climate Council), Emeritus Professor Gerard Fitzgerald (Queensland University of Technology) and Fiona Armstrong (Climate and Health Alliance). Watch the recording here.
Protecting Canberra's air quality
Before 2019, Canberra was renowned for its high air quality. But over the 2019/20 Summer, things changed dramatically. Of the 91 days of this summer, 56 of them exceeded the national standards of pollution levels and 42 days had periods above the hazardous to health rating. Tune in to hear the Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability present results from the 2020 survey of community experiences of the Black Summer smoke. Dr Arnagretta Hunter, Human Futures Fellow at the ANU, will outline the latest information about the health impacts of air pollution. Watch the recording here.
Research and Reports
Climate change and its impacts pose an increasing threat to the continued health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A new Policy Statement from the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) calls for immediate bipartisan commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a national plan on climate and health, and advocates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak health organisations fully participate in national planning for climate change and health. Read more here.
The Bureau of Meteorology have released their 2020 Climate statement for Australia. 2020 was Australia's fourth hottest year on record, Spring 2020 was the warmest on record, despite La Niña, and 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record. Daytime temperatures were especially warm for Sydney, Hobart, and Darwin. All of the capital cities, except Adelaide, observed warmer than average annual mean minimum temperatures. Read more here.
How can we estimate the health effects of mitigation actions to help policy makers prioritise investments based on mitigation potential and health benefits? Here's a checklist: Health effects of mitigation (HEM) modelling, including model structure, scope and scale, demographics, time horizons, counterfactuals, health response functions, and metrics; parameterisation and reporting; approaches to uncertainty and sensitivity analysis; accounting for policy uptake; and discounting. Read more here.
This newsletter is brought to you by the team at the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA).
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