Pages tagged "climate"

  • Australian Government puts forward submission on health to UNFCCC

    Getting policy traction: The 2012 Climate and Health Alliance report Our Uncashed Dividend produced in partnership with The Climate Institute has hit a chord with media, community, and policymakers. It was released in 2012 to widespread media coverage, has been the subject of many invited presentations, and has stimulated and informed the first ever submission from the Australian Government on health to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process occurring in October 2012, written following a meeting with CAHA in August 2012. The submission by the Australian Government on health to the UNFCCC took the form of a submission to the Nairobi Working Party of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). (The SBSTA is one of two permanent subsidiary bodies to the Convention established by the COP/CMP. It supports the work of the COP and the CMP through the provision of timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters as they relate to the Convention or its Kyoto Protocol. The Nairobi Work Program is set up to to assist all Parties to improve their understanding and assessment of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change; and make informed decisions on actions and measures to respond to climate change on a sound scientific, technical and socio-economic basis). The Australian Government submission proposes that further work be undertaken to "understand the physical and psychological impacts of climate change on individual and community health" and suggesting that this work could "draw on the experience of health sector workers, as a useful resource in understanding and addressing the climate change impacts on health". The Australian Government submission is available here.

  • Climate and health community pays tribute to Professor Tony McMichael

    Leading epidemiologist and public health researcher Professor Tony McMichael has been honoured with a two day festschrift in Canberra to celebrate his work on the occasion of his retirement from the National Centre for Population Health and Epidemiology at Australian National University (NCEPH-ANU). Current and former colleagues, students, and members of the national and international public health community gathered to reflect on, and pay tribute to, the work of the man described as "the world's leading scholar and commentator on the relationship between global climate change and human health." However while Professor McMichael might be best known for his climate and health research - as Dr Maria Neira from World Health Organisation said: "for W.H.O., Tony is the guru on climate and health" - presentations from fellow researchers and students over the two days demonstrate an extraordinarily broad ranging research career. Professor McMichael has made seminal contributions to scientific and human understanding of the health implications of tobacco, the health risks from lead production, uranium mining, rubber production, and ozone depletion as well as climate change. Many of those present recounted how their careers had been influenced by Professor McMichael's' work, particularly his seminal text: "Planetary Overload", published in 1993, which outlined the threats to health from climate change, ozone depletion, land degradation, loss of biodiversity and the explosion of cities. Professor McMichael's work as a public health researcher and epidemiologist has been instrumental in the phasing out of lead in more than 100 countries; key to legal decisions to determine what constituted scientific proof in relation to harm to human health from tobacco; and profoundly influential in highlighting how the health of the natural environment and the health of the biosphere is fundamental to human health. Reflecting Professor McMichael's diverse interests and love of the arts, the festschrift was not only a stimulating intellectual event, but featured an art exhibition: the Contested Landcapes of Western Sydney, curated by Tony's colleague and friend from ANU, artist John Reid. The festschrift celebration dinner in the Great Hall at University House featured the remarkable talents of Tony's daughter Anna McMichael on violin and Daniel de Borah on piano. Other family members also at the festschrift included Tony's other daughter, anthropologist Celia McMichael, brother and sociologist Philip McMichael and wife Judith Healy. Colleague and joint festschrift organiser (with Jane Dixon and Tony Capon) Colin Butler closed the conference by saying that it would take "months to fully explore the breadth and depth of Tony's career" and "even then we might not fully understand it". We did however, as Colin said, catch a glimpse, and what an inspiring glimpse it was.

  • Future under threat: climate change and children's health

    By Brad Farrant, University of Western Australia, Fiona Armstrong, Climate and Health Alliance, and Glenn Albrecht, Murdoch University Climate change has been widely recognised by leading public health organisations and prestigious peer reviewed journals as the the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. A recently released report, commissioned by 20 of the most vulnerable countries, highlights the size of the threat: climate change is already responsible for 400,000 deaths annually, mostly from hunger and communicable disease. And our carbon-intensive energy system causes another 4.5 million deaths annually, largely due to air pollution. Along with the old and disadvantaged, children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Children suffer around 90% of the disease burden from climate change. What can our children expect if we continue the way we're going? Even if current international carbon reduction commitments are honoured, the global temperature rise is predicted to be more than double the internationally agreed target of 2°C. Humanity continues to pour record amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. It has been argued that, if this continues, reasonable hope of avoiding dangerous climate change will have passed us by in a mere 16 years. The impact climate change has on children born today may well be decided before they can vote on it. Climate change will affect global agricultural productivity and food security, with 25 million additional children predicted to be malnourished by 2050. The estimate of an additional 200 million "environmental refugees" by 2050 has become the widely accepted figure. This means, if we do not intervene, millions of children will suffer the adverse mental, physical and social health impacts associated with forced migration. The impact climate change has on children born today may well be decided before they can vote on it. Steve Slater Wildlife Encounters The intensity and frequency of weather extremes will increase. This will result in increased child illness and death from heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts. The increased incidence and severity of floods, for instance, will increase child illness and death from diarrhoea and other water born diseases. We're likely to see more asthma, allergies, disease and other adverse health outcomes that disproportionately affect children. A recent report observed that climate change may make serious epidemics more likely in previously less-affected communities. This report also found that changing climate conditions have the potential to stimulate the emergence of new diseases and influence children's vulnerability to disease. Australians will not be immune to these changes. It has been estimated that climate change will mean that Australian children will face a 30% to 100% increase across selected health risks by 2050. Indeed, if we fail to act, future generations of Australians may face a three- to 15-fold increase in these health risks by 2100. Because their brains are still developing, children are particularly vulnerable to toxic levels of stress. Increased exposure to trauma and stress because of climate change is likely to affect children's brain development and mental health. Children surveyed six months after the 2003 bushfires in Canberra, for example, showed much higher rates of emotional problems. Nearly half had elevated symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Research has also found that prolonged exposure to adverse weather conditions is associated with increased child and adolescent psychological distress over time. As global warming drives local and regional change to home environments, children, like many non-human animals will experience place-based distress (known as solastalgia) at the unwelcome changes. An additional 25 million children around the world are predicted to be malnourished by 2050. United Nations Photo We are only beginning to understand the impacts that climate change will have on children's physical and mental health. More research at the regional and local levels is desperately needed so we can adequately understand, prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. James Hansen from NASA recently argued that:

    Children cannot avoid hearing that the window of opportunity to act in time to avoid dramatic climate impacts is closing, and that their future and that of other species is at stake. While the psychological health of our children needs to be protected, denial of the truth exposes them to even greater risk.

    We must listen to the fears and concerns of children and young people and include their voices in discussions about climate change. The existence of cost effective ways to reduce climate change means there is no excuse for inaction. Climate change and the carbon-intensive energy system are currently costing 1.7% of global GDP and are expected to reach 3.5% by 2030. This is much higher than the cost of shifting to a low carbon economy. Right now the science is telling us that we are not doing enough. As children are innocent and non-consenting victims of climate change, adults have an ethical obligation to do everything possible to prevent further damage to their ability to thrive in the future. To do otherwise is to ignore the very thing many of us see as the most important reason for living. Brad Farrant is supported by funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council. He has no commercial interests of any kind. Fiona Armstrong is Convenor of the Climate and Health Alliance. Glenn Albrecht has previously received funding from an ARC DP project and an NCCARF grant. This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

  • A "dismal" response to "big, unprecedented, threats" to human survival: McMichael on McKeon

    This post was first published on Croakey as on 7th October 2012. In an email to CAHA he agreed to make public, Professor Tony McMichael provides another critique of the McKeon review's narrow approach to health and medical research. This McKeon Review ˜consultation paper' contains, for the wider social enterprise of public health research, a dismal but predictable set of recommendations. The name 'NHMRC' incorporates the words ˜Health and Medical', but the McKeon Review panel membership comprised ˜medical' rather than ˜health' persons ” eminent researchers in laboratory and clinical science ” along with a strong representation of the private for-profit business (including biotech) sector. Of course, it's easy to rail against this McKeon Review output and the restricted, orthodox, and somewhat closed-shop NHMRC mentality. However, the document also provides a sobering reminder of the fundamental problem that societies face today in their need to expand their concern, research effort, resources and policy to abating the big, and unprecedented, systemic threats to population health and survival from human-caused climate change and other extraordinary global environmental changes. These threats to health are of a kind not previously faced, and a broad and distinctive genre of research in relation to them is required. The committee members are very able people who, variously, have great intellectual, reputational and financial investments in the status quo; they are at the top of their professional pyramids; and they probably cannot imagine a different world in the near future with a radically different spectrum of health-risk issues. History has seen it all before. As prolonged droughts closed in on the Maya civilisation in the ninth century, contributing greatly to the weakening of the agricultural base (already stretched by a population that had expanded substantially), the rulers and opinion-leaders opted for ever larger edifices and grander ceremonies. They had, presumably, little understanding or interest in the increasingly precarious longer-term prospects of their society. Hay was to be made while the sun shined. It was business as usual, but always with a growing appetite for ever-more resources. Dubai today is following suit, in a region of the world where they have had to give up trying to grow their own grains, now that their once-only aquifer supplies have been depleted. Meanwhile, the sheikhs and financiers opt for world-tallest buildings and creating (and selling) artificial island ˜nations' in the Gulf that have been built to a mere couple of metres above the (rising) sea level. The McKeon Review perspective is of a kind with these assumptions of business-as-usual (in a stable world). It is not surprising that the Chief Executive of Medicines Australia, Brendan Shaw, has been quoted as saying this week: "We are encouraged by the McKeon Review's recognition of the importance of clinical research both as generator of economic benefit, but more importantly as a generator of health benefits for Australian patients, and the recognition of the important role the medicines industry plays in this.
  • Greening the health sector: think tank report

    The Climate and Health Alliance and Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Assocations co-hosted a "Greening the Health Sector Policy Think Tank" in Sydney in August 2012. This event was attended by 52 enthusiastic participants from a range of health facilities, state departments and universities. We certainly achieved our aim of starting an important conversation about how hospitals and healthcare providers can reduce their own carbon footprints (mitigation), and in doing so how the Australian health system can be strengthened through the promotion of greater sustainability and environmental health. While hospitals have a big ''environmental footprint'', many are finding that sustainability measures benefit patients and the environment and offer financial savings. We also discussed the role of the health sector in building capacity to deal with the impact of climate change on health services (adaptation). A Policy Issues Brief on this topic was drafted for the AHHA's Institute, and circulated to registrants ahead of the PTT. Download the report from the Think Tank here. The keynote speaker was Professor Peter Orris from the USA, Senior Advisor from CAHA's international partner organisation, Health Care Without Harm. Professor Orris is the Director of the Occupational Health Service Institute and Global Chemicals Policy Program at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, a component of a WHO Collaborating Center. Dr Orris has served as advisor to WHO, PAHO, Federal, State and Local Governments, environmental organizations, labor unions and corporations. A series of Canberra-based meetings were organized with Peter in the two-days ahead of the PTT including with the Minister for Health and Ageing (Tanya Plibersek), the Minister for Climate Change's Chief of Staff (Allan Behm), Senators Richard Di Natale and Nick Xenophon and officers from the Departments of Health and Ageing and Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Professor Orris also presented a seminar for the staff at the Department of Climate Change with about 50 attendees. Other speakers included:
    • Dr Kate Charlesworth, Public Health Registrar previously from the NHS Sustainable Development Unit
    • Mr Glen Hadfield, Manager, Asset Systems & Sustainability, Western Sydney Local Health District
    • Dr Forbes McGain, Anaesthetist and Intensive Care Physician, Western Health Footscray, Vic
    • Professor Tony Capon, Head of the Discipline of Public Health Faculty of Health University of Canberra
    The presentations from the Greening the Healthcare Sector Policy Think Tank are available here.
  • Transforming economics and governance for better health

    We're very excited about our upcoming workshop at the Population Health Congress in Adelaide on 9th September. We'll be really giving our brains a workout as we think about how to transform Australia, and society for that matter, to more sustainable, healthier ways of living. Sunday 9th September - Pre-conference Workshop, Population Health Congress, Adelaide Convention Centre This workshop will bring together some of the thinking that is emerging around the world that recognises that as a species, we are responsible for driving changes that are affecting global systems and our current systems of economics and governance are contributing to destructive practices that mean we are hitting up against ecological limits. What can we do about this? What contribution can health professionals make to reshaping our thinking about what it means to have healthy sustainable societies? What new systems are being envisaged and/or are emerging to respond to these challenges? Come and join us for a stimulating Sunday afternoon sesssion in Adelaide, from 1-4.30pm on the 9th of September 2012. PROGRAM 1.00pm Welcome to country, introduction to workshop “ Peter Tait 1.10pm Presentation: Transforming democracy “ Peter Tait 1.25pm Presentation: Reshaping economics for better health and sustainability “ Fiona Armstrong 1.40pm Presentation: The nuts and bolts of making things happen “ Bob Douglas 1.55pm Questions and discussion 2.10pm Break into small groups: What does this mean for me and my practice? 3.00pm Afternoon tea and networking 3.30pm Report back from groups 4.00pm Synthesise discussions, brief outline of workshop report, and next steps ABOUT THE PRESENTERS: Dr Peter Tait is a general practitioner who worked in Alice Springs for 20 years before relocating to Canberra in 2011. He is involved in clinical work, public health and teaching. He has had a long involvement in the environment and peace movements. He was RACGP General Practitioner of the Year in 2007. He recently completed a Masters of Climate Change at the Australian National University. Fiona Armstrong is a health professional, journalist, and climate and health policy expert. She is the founder and convenor of the Climate and Health Alliance, a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development, and author of Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Action and Shifting from Fear to Hope: Climate Policy Options for Australia. Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas is the former director of the National Centre for Population Health and Epidemiology at ANU. Following his retirement in 2001, he founded Australia 21 - a non-profit organisation developing research networks on issues of importance to Australia's future. Bob is the founder and chair of SEE-Change Inc which seeks to empower local communities to take action on climate change and their ecological footprint. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2000. Download the Workshop Flyer here (pdf) and download the Workshop Registration Form here. The Workshop Program is available here. The full program for the 2012 Population Health Congress is available here. This workshop is sponsored by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) Ecology and Environment Special Interest Group (SIG).

  • Health ministers attacks on climate change action are just sick

    This article was published on The Conversation on 10 August 2012 via the following link: By Stephan Lewandowsky and Fiona Armstrong The ACCC has been vigilant about following up the 45 or so carbon price gouging complaints it gets each day. But who can stop the politicians? Their relentless carbon price scare campaigns seek to frighten, rather than inform, an increasingly polarised public who should be getting the facts on health and climate change. Take, for example, the Liberal Health Minister in Victoria, David Davis. His recent contribution to the climate discussion was a leaflet for distribution across Melbourne's eastern suburbs which suggested that the "carbon tax will hurt patients". He said that hospitals will face a $13 million "tax bill" because "Julia Gillard doesn't care." In actual fact, there is no such tax bill. Even if electricity costs rose by $13 million, it would reflect less than 0.1% of total health expenditure. Given that the Commonwealth will be footing the bill for 50% of the cost of hospital care from 2014, the states can hardly claim the burden as their own. The most effective method of protecting the health sector against future price rises would be to invest in energy efficiency and distributed energy generation systems. This would help manage future price increases as well as reduce harmful air pollution from burning fossil fuels for electricity. Air pollution puts many people in hospitals with respiratory disease and cancer. Because of this, the previous Victorian government set aside $460 million to make public buildings, such as hospitals, more energy efficient and therefore healthier. Carbon pricing is in fact a health protection measure. The World Health Organisation, the World Medical Association, the CSIRO, the United Nations Human Development Program, and the Australian Medical Association all call, and have been calling for years, for a policy to discourage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of the harm they pose to human health. Motor vehicle pollution is a killer: moves to reduce it should be welcomed. According to the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, between 900 and 2,000 early deaths occur annually in Australia from motor-vehicle related air pollution alone. Coal-fired power generation carries a similar toll “ creating a health burden that, if reflected in the costs of electricity would effectively double the cost of coal-fired power. Mr Davis is Health Minister of a wealthy state in a developed nation. He cannot possibly claim to be unaware of the substantial body of evidence, present in thousands of peer reviewed scientific journals over several decades, that climate change poses far bigger risks to health than a small rise in energy prices “ especially when it is offset by generous subsidies to prevent those on low incomes from energy poverty. Indeed, the EU expects that a substantial proportion of the costs of emission reductions will be offset by co-benefits arising from improved health. And the cumulative health benefits are doubled if action is taken immediately, rather than delaying till 2015. The basis for Mr Davis's claims is a report commissioned by the Victorian Government. It was prepared by commercial consultant Sinclair Knight Merz and released to the Herald Sun, but otherwise not available publicly. According to the Herald Sun, it estimates an increase of $13 million in health care costs as a direct result of the carbon price. Mr Davis is not alone in making such claims; similar statements have been released by the NSW and Queensland governments. The Federal Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton has attacked the (Labor) Tasmanian Premier for refusing to frighten her electorate with similar claims. These politicians have the job of preserving and safe-guarding public health. Instead of heeding the recommendations of every major medical body, those politicians see fit to attack a measure that is in their constituents' best interests. In addition to the direct harm to health from fossil fuels, climate change already claims 300,000 human lives annually. If not from science, where are Mr Davis and others getting their advice? Could it be from the Sunshine coast doctor responsible for the recent LNP motion to ban climate science from schools in Queensland, who thought he could disprove 150 years of physics in his back yard with two eskies and glad wrap? While the current legislation is hardly a sufficient effort to reduce emissions to the extent required, it is in line with widely accepted policy settings around the world and it is a first step in the right direction. What are the likely consequences of Mr Davis's claims and other egregious misrepresentations of the price on carbon? There is good reason to fear that those claims may be quite successful: we know that once a myth has been put into the public arena, it often resists any corrective effort, no matter how readily it can be debunked. Claims that arouse fear can be politically very effective, especially when combined with a seductively simple antidote “ getting rid of the carbon tax. The Australian media are notoriously incapable of differentiating fact from fiction, especially when it comes to the price on carbon. Indeed, we are not aware of any challenge to Mr. Davis's claims, and those of his colleagues, in the corporate media. George Orwell's "Ministry of Truth" has been enshrined into Western culture as a symbol for the chilling inversion of reality that results when facts become irrelevant and propaganda paramount. Victorians should be concerned that their "Ministry of Health" may likewise become known for opposing, rather than facilitating, public health measures that are aimed at managing the consequences of climate change.


    Stephan Lewandowsky Australian Professorial Fellow, Cognitive Science Laboratories at University of Western Australia     Fiona Armstrong Convenor, Climate and Health Alliance

  • A conversation with the Climate Commission

    Climate and Health Alliance members and other health professionals and health service executives met with the Australian Government Climate Commission on Wednesday 25th July 2012 at Sunshine Hospital to discuss health and climate change.

    The meeting was hosted by Western Health CEO Kathryn Cook at the new Sunshine Hospital and made possible by Friends of CAHA and Doctors for the Environment member Dr Forbes McGain and his colleague at Western Health, sustainability officer Catherine O'Shea. Commissioners Tim Flannery, Lesley Hughes, Roger Beale and Gerry Hueston and Commission media advisor Amanda McKenzie attended the meeting with around 25 people including health professionals from medicine, nursing, allied health, psychology and public health disciplines, as well as health care services and policy people. Some of the topics of discussion included: What does health sector know about climate change? What can be done to build a greater awareness among health professionals about the risks to health from climate change? What are the opportunities for the health sector to demonstrate leadership in responding to, and being seen to respond to, climate change? A lack of awareness among health professionals about the implications of climate change for health was raised as a barrier to the sector effectively responding. The education of all health professionals on climate and health was considered vital and urgent - including from undergraduate level to continuing professional development for the existing workforce. Professor Lesley Hughes presented the findings from the Commission's report on climate change and health and its latest report on climate impacts and opportunities for Victoria. Professor Tim Flannery explained why they were keen to engage with health professionals: to raise awareness about the implications for health from climate change but also to encourage health professionals to use their own status as respected members of the community to help build community understanding about the need to respond urgently to climate change. Professor Flannery's comments to media before the meeting summed this up: "Climate change is one of the serious threats to Victoria's health, especially those in our community who are most vulnerable, like the elderly and the very young. Few Australians are aware of the risks to their health and the health of their family and community. While much of the public discussions on climate change have emphasised the environmental impacts, a greater focus needs to be on the health consequences. Climate change must be considered a public health priority.'' The meeting was then opened to discussion, with participants encouraged to ask the Commission questions about their report and to discuss what needed to be done to raise awareness among the health community about climate change. Some of the challenges that were raised included:

    • the quarantining of public health sector budgets separating capital from operational expenditure made it difficult to make the case for the implementation of energy efficiency measures as the impact of costs were felt in one budgetary area and the savings realized in another.
    • Other socio-cultural challenges include the complex psychological responses to climate change and the difficulties in finding effective ways to communicate such a complex science in ways that are not disempowering and alarming. Serious concerns were raised about the neglect of mental health risks and the lack of preparedness to respond to severe risks to mental health.
    • The need to engage young people in particular was noted and the importance of including their voices and their concerns in relation to how we respond to climate change.
    • A lack of climate ˜literacy' among health professionals was considered a barrier to health professionals understanding the implications of, and the need to respond to, climate change. Education about climate change and health is needed in undergraduate and postgraduate curricula for all health professionals, as well as in continuing professional development for current practitioners, the meeting heard.
    • There is also a need for the health sector to gain an understanding of the gendered nature of the health implications of climate change and climate policy, especially in relation to the differential effect of climate change on women.
    • Other concerns were raised about the mistruths being promoted in the community by the Victorian Health Minister David Davis in a recent brochure claiming the carbon tax would hurt health by driving up energy costs.
    • While there is some degree of preparedness that will help the health sector respond to climate change, with emergency power supplies, and heatwaves plans, overall the health sector is not well prepared to respond to climate impacts. Responses to other risks to health from increased ozone, affecting respiratory health; food and water borne disease and threats to infrastructure from extreme weather event were not well developed and pose potentially serious risks.

    Climate Commission media advisor Amanda McKenzie advised health professionals to see the issue as an opportunity for the health sector to make a strong case for action to cut emissions that will also benefit public health and urged health professionals to use their respected and trusted role to build community understanding and action. Ms McKenzie's final question to the participants: "What can the Commission do to elevate the voice of health professionals on this issue?" is the subject of continuing discussion, and CAHA will share further feedback from members on this subsequently. The meeting closed with the message that the climate communications evidence suggests that when climate change is talked about as a health issue, people are much more likely to respond as they see it in an individual context and as something that is personally relevant to them, rather than as a global environmental issue which is distant in time and space ("in the future, someone else, somewhere else"). Coupled with the evidence that action on climate change can help reduce many existing disease burdens, and the esteem with which health professionals are held in the community, this makes for a powerful combination and a great opportunity for health professionals to influence this national and international conversation to help achieve better outcomes for health and wellbeing.

  • Health sector ill-prepared for climate change

    The Climate and Health Alliance made the following statement to the Productivity Commission's public hearing in Melbourne for the Commission's Inquiry into Barriers to Effective Climate Change Adaptation on Monday 16 July 2012: The Climate and Health Alliance has responded to the Productivity Commission Draft Report on Climate Change Adaptation out of concern that the issue of health protection through effective adaptation is being overlooked in Australia's adaptation responses and in the Commission's report. In 2009, the international medical journal The Lancet identified climate change as the biggest threat to global health of the 21st century. The risks posed by the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, fires, floods and storms and the injuries, deaths and trauma “ physical, emotional, financial - to health, require careful planning to help minimise harm. Rising temperatures lead to increased harmful air pollution and aeroallergens as well as increased risk of food borne disease; the changing climate affects food and water security; there are increased risks from vector borne diseases; and psychological impacts from a changing environment, ranging from solastalgia from a loss of the familiar natural environment to anxiety about the societal failure to respond, to bereavement, injury, displacement associated with extreme events. Health services are placed under increasing pressure during extreme events; supply chains of pharmaceutical and medical supplied impacted; and health professionals and emergency professionals themselves impacted personally, limiting their ability to respond. A temperature spike of eight degrees above normal led to 56,000 deaths in the Russian summer of 2010. In 2009, Victoria experienced temperatures between 12-15 degrees above the average. That single heatwave saw a 62% increase in mortality, from both direct heat related illnesses and associated exacerbations of chronic medical conditions. The Victorian Department of Human Services reported that during this five day event, ambulances had a 46% increase in demand; emergency departments experienced an eight-fold increase in heat related presentations; a 2.8 fold increase in cardiac arrests; and a threefold increase in patients dead on arrival. Monitoring these risks and preparing for them e.g. to track the health consequences of climate change and assess the adaptive processes in place should be an integral responsibility of government. Clear accountability for this responsibility is vital, as is the reporting of such monitoring so it is clear what adaptation strategies are in place and how effective they are.[1] The fact there is no submission from any health service agencies to this Inquiry reflects the lack of understanding within health departments and the health sector more broadly about the risks posed to health from climate change and the importance of protecting health through effective adaptive responses. We acknowledge and commend the submissions from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and the Australian Psychological Society which provide important perspectives on health but we regret the lack of broader engagement from other professions and health departments and health service providers. There are in fact excellent examples of some health services demonstrating leadership in helping communities adapt to climate change, such as the Southern Grampians and Glenelg Primary Care Partnership and Women's Health in the North here in Victoria, but too often these initiatives depend on the passion and commitment of individuals and much more work is needed to institutionalize a responsiveness to climate change across the whole health sector. This responsiveness however requires an understanding of the issue. Climate change poses serious risk to health and to health services and yet the understanding of those risks among the professionals groups required to respond is very limited. The lack of engagement with this Inquiry and with the issue itself suggests that health professionals and the healthcare sector have largely failed to grasp the risks posed to Australian communities from a failure to develop effective adaptation strategies or for the need for urgent mitigation. One of the key strategies for protecting health from climate change must be to enhance awareness of climate change and health among health and medical practitioners. This requires leadership from the instruments of government i.e. the public service in developing policies and programs to address this. And yet, despite, climate change being the biggest threat to public health we face this century, there is no-one in the federal department of health clearly responsible for developing policy to protect health from climate change. There is no-one in the federal department of climate change who has a clear mandate for policy development that acknowledges and reflects the risks to health. While there has been an energetic public discussion about the need a national policy response to climate change for several years, there has been little acknowledgement by any government of the imperative to protect health though climate policy. The Climate Commission has produced a report on climate change and health, but its messages are yet to reach the majority of health professionals. Communities can only effectively adapt to climate change is they understand the risks. One of the most cited reports on climate change adaptation in Australia is Community Engagement and Climate Change: Benefits, Challenges and Strategies produced by the McCaughey Centre in the School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne. This report states the development of effective adaptation and responses to climate change require: "assisting citizens and communities develop informed understandings of climate change", and that key success factors in using community engagement require "government policy frameworks to support and promote community engagement". While these may appear in a limited way among some local governments, deliberate and sustained community engagement on climate change has been missing in federal government initiatives until the recent establishment of the Climate Commission and sporadic at state government levels. While there have been some limited evaluations of climate literacy among health professionals internationally, little is known about the level of understanding about climate change among Australian health professionals. International evaluations reveal public health bureaucrats[2] and public health nurses [3] are ill prepared to respond to climate change and have not yet made climate change adaptation a priority. One study of public health department directors in the US suggests climate change adaptation and prevention are not currently major activities at most health departments, and that all will require assistance in making a transition to doing so. The 2012 evaluation of public health nurses' knowledge and attitudes regarding climate change suggests they lack a thorough understanding of the evidence regarding human induced climate change and its implications. Improving climate literacy among health professionals is a key adaptive strategy that has so far been overlooked in Australian policy responses. This requires engagement of the existing as well as the future workforce. Continuing professional development programs about climate change and health are needed for the current healthcare workforce, and education of the future health workforce must be made a priority.[4] Curricula for all health disciplines on the health impacts of climate change are needed “ all healthcare professionals should be trained from undergraduate through to postgraduate level on how to respond to the risks of climate change to health at the population, community and individual levels. A better understanding among health professionals will also contribute to better community understanding, given the important role of health professionals as communicators, educators, and civil society leaders. A paper in Australian Health Review by Weaver et al identifies six strategies for preparing the health system for climate change: health promotion; health protection; disaster preparedness; workforce development; strategic and service planning; and healthcare financing.[5] All these elements require specific focus and additional resourcing in the Australian health sector. Healthcare infrastructure itself faces risk from climate change.[6] More information is needed about future demand for health services, likely physical impacts on facilities and their ability to cope with these, strategies to improve coping capacity, associated costs, as well as integrated disaster plans to ensure health services can continue to function during extreme weather events.[7] There are many opportunities for the health care sector to respond to climate change in ways that reduce energy use, reduce waste, save money and improve health. The health sector needs to be supported to begin to implement adaptive strategies that will improve its resilience to climate change impacts, improve its capacity to deliver services and to provide an example of leadership in beginning to demonstrate the economic and health benefits of low carbon operations. Health care providers should be supported to reduce the environmental footprint of the sector in ways that will protect them from future shocks in terms of energy prices, water shortages and resource shortages. Adaptation measures that create a sustainable and resilient healthcare sector will provide ongoing benefits for the community. The Climate and Health Alliance recommends:
    1. The development of a National Plan for Health in Responding to Climate Change (Adaptation and Mitigation).
    2. A national community engagement campaign to build understanding about the risks from climate change.
    3. The development and implementation of programs to increase awareness among health professionals about the health risks from climate change to assist in developing more effective adaptive responses.
    4. A substantial increase in the funding available for climate and health research in Australia, including regional health impact assessments, and a specific emphasis on evaluating the health benefits of effective adaptation and mitigation.
    5. Increased investment in research on climate change communication to support translation of evidence into policy action.
    6. Improvements in disease surveillance, health risk monitoring, early warning systems, emergency response and disaster preparedness.
    7. Improving community resilience through greater investment in health promotion and disease prevention.
    8. Evaluation of projected health care demand from climate change; physical impacts on health care infrastructure from climate change; and projected associated costs.
    9. Increasing health sector resilience through initiatives to ˜green' the health sector.
    The Climate and Health Alliance's earlier submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Barriers to Effective Climate Change Adaptation can be found here:

    [1] Samet, J. Public Health: Adapting to Climate Change, Issue Brief, Resources for the Future, March 2010. [2] Maibach, E.W. et al. Change change and local public health in the United States: Preparedness, Programs and Perceptions of Local Public Health Department Directors, Climate Change and Health, PLoS One, 3:7, 2008.
    [3] Polivka, B. et al. Public Health Nurses' Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Climate Change, Environmental Health Perspectives, 120:3, 2012.
    [4] Weaver, H. et al. Climate change and Australia's healthcare system, Australian Health Review, 2010.
    [5] Weaver, H. et al. Climate change and Australia's healthcare system, Australian Health Review, 2010.
    [6] Carthey, J. Et al. (2009) "Adapting Australian health facilities to cope with climate-related extreme weather events", Journal of Facilities Management, 7:1, pp.36 “ 51.
    [7] Carthey, J. Et al. (2009) "Adapting Australian health facilities to cope with climate-related extreme weather events", Journal of Facilities Management, 7:1, pp.36 “ 51.
  • Stop funding climate change!

    The Climate and Health Alliance has joined with organisations and individuals around the world asking Australia state, territory and federal governments and other countries governments to stop subsidising fossil fuels. Recent estimates from the International Energy Agency suggest that over $775 billion is spent globally each year, subsidising fossil fuels. In 2009, G20 leaders pledged to phase out fossil fuels, but action has been too slow. It is estimated that fossil fuels subsidies in Australia are worth up to $12 billion each year - that's $12 billion of Australian taxpayers' money that could/should be spent on renewable energy every year. You can sign a petition here to join over one million people calling on world leaders to end taxpayer handouts to the fossil fuel industry. If want to stop climate change, we need to stop funding the cause! Take action now!   Sign a petition here to join over one million people calling on world leaders at the Earth Summit at Rio to end taxpayer handouts to the fossil fuel industry. As the poster says, if we want to stop climate change, we have to stop funding the source of the problem. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it?