Pages tagged "coal"

  • Latrobe Valley to benefit from cleaner air and better health

    The Climate and Health Alliance has welcomed Engie’s decision to close its Hazelwood coal-fired power station, saying this will immediately improve the health of the thousands of people living nearby.

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  • Adani coal mine is a public health catastrophe

    Dr Kate Charlesworth writes on the "unacceptably high" health risks of coal mines

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  • CAHA at the Climate and Healthcare Conference, Paris, 4th December 2015

    Fiona Armstrong from the Climate and Health Alliance was a speaker at the Climate and Healthcare Conference, held during COP21, at Georges Pompidou Hospital, Paris, on 4 December 2015. The Conference was organised and hosted by Health Care Without Harm, the French Hospital Federation (FHF) and the French Federation of Private Non-profit Hospitals (FEHAP). Supporting Organization: Paris Hospital Associtaion (APHP). 15:50 “ 17:00 Panel 4: Governance and financing of the energy transition Moderator: Didier BOURDON, Assistance Publique Hopitaux de Paris (AP-HP), France

    • Sister Susan VICKERS, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Dignity Health, United States
    • Joe GRIFFIN, Head of Environment and Environmental Wellbeing at BUPA, United Kingdom
    • Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director, Climate and Health Alliance, Australia

    FA-Climate-Healthcare-Conf-Paris-2015                

    A transcript of Ms Armstrong's speech appears below: "Thank-you for the opportunity to talk on this topic.

    The governance and financing of the energy transition are both huge topics, and in some ways are quite different in terms of the approaches that are being undertaken to effect the transition, with very different actors in play and different constituencies being targeted.

    There are obvious shortcomings with both governance and financing, and I will speak briefly about our association, that is, the Climate and Health Alliance's, with both in Australia.

    This is more about governance and financing of energy more broadly, not just in the health sector.

    In Australia, our electricity production is primarily from coal, and the coal industry is both politically powerful and like the industry internationally, delusional about the future of their industry and their culpability when it come to global warming.

    The coal industry is seeking to expand, refusing to acknowledge that achieving anything remotely like a safe climate (ie limiting warming to 1.5 or two degrees) is incompatible with a future coal industry.

    Our governments in Australia are first rate cheerleaders for the fossil fuel industry, providing (according to a new report from Oil Change International) $5 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry each year (some other reports put it at double this figure) (and like many high emitting nations, this is over 100 times more in subsidies to fossil fuel producers each year than $ to the Green Climate Fund) while enjoying the industry's donations to election campaigns, and state governments are seemingly addicted to the royalties paid by mining companies which they then use, somewhat ironically, to provide healthcare, education etcetera.

    We have been working with healthcare stakeholders in Australia to effect a discourse about the health implications of energy policy and encourage health organisations and advocates to see this as core business for health in the context of a ˜health-in-all-policies' approach.

    We have worked to highlight the economic costs associated health damages from continued production and combustion of coal and oil and gas for local communities as well as for the global community from climate change.

    One such effort is a recent study on coal and health in the Hunter Valley, in a report we called Lessons from One Valley for the World.

    The Hunter Valley is home, or was once, to some of the most picturesque landscapes in the country, in a fertile valley that made the region famous for fine wines and fast thoroughbreds.

    Both are now adversely affected by the creeping scourge of open cut coal mines, some of them eight kilometers long and several hundred meters deep.

    Also affected is the local community, whose health outcomes lag behind the state average, with children in the region more vulnerable to respiratory disease, adults more vulnerable to cardiorespiratory illness and many experiencing the mental and emotional health impacts associated with loss of the landscape, of farms and towns and villages as they are swallowed up by mines, the loss of friends, community, lifestyle, opportunities, and the attendant socio-economic impacts.

    The health costs associated with coal in the Hunter Valley has an adverse economic impact on the local economy (with $65 million pa in health harms in just two towns, Muswellbrook and Singleton, close to several mines, and through which the coal trains which stretch for kilometers pass; on the regional economy with a health cost of $200 million pa from the Valley's five coal fired stations; and on the global economy of $16-$66 billion pa from the social costs of carbon i.e.global damages from current coal production).

    The response of the government has been to insist that coal has a bright future, with members of the NSW Parliament holding what they called a Carnival of Coal in Parliament House one day in August this year (we eagerly anticipate a day in which they celebrate low carbon healthcare, or similar worthy initiatives!) while NSW Health bureaucrats have complained that our report has led to people contacting the department with concerns about their health.

    Heaven forbid that they respond with regulation to limit that harm! The coal lobby industry said, and I quote: "There's absolutely no evidence to support the claims made in this report." Well, unfortunately there is a substantial weight of evidence and none of it in the coal industry's favour.

    Just this week it has emerged that the industry and the state government in the Australian state of Qld are both implicated in covering up an emerging trend of increasing incidence of pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, among coal miners in that state, echoing an international trend of increasing rates of the disease among young miners (ie around 40 years old) in the US.

    So there are governance issues to wrestle with, when democratically elected governments and their administrators are more influenced by industries peddling let's face it, profoundly dangerous products, than by health experts armed with scientific evidence.

    There isn't time to go into this now, but our efforts over the next few years are going to be more focused on mobilising health professionals are part of a wider social movement to demand accountability from our politicians and less about documenting and presenting the evidence for action, which we believe to be comprehensively addressed.

    To turn to financing for a moment, some of the more effective methods of shifting the financing of fossil fuels have been the divestment campaigns that are underway around the world encouraging (through public pressure and shaming, really), universities, churches, institutions, and government to stop investing in fossil fuels.

    I want to finish by talking briefly about policy, since this is a governance tool, and one through which we can effect change, if we can get governments to cooperate.

    We need this to happen at both a national, and local jurisdictional level, as well as internationally and the more we understand about what is happening, the more we can leverage the successes and work to close the gaps.

    Along with several of my colleagues in the audience, I have been involved in a global survey of national climate change and health policies “ figuring out what countries are doing to specifically respond to the risks posed to the health of their citizens by climate change.

    We had 35 respondent countries, and the survey revealed that most of them do not have comprehensive plans to protect health from climate change, most have done little or no work in evaluating health risks, and few were engaging the health sector in creating a climate resilient healthcare system or investing in research to understand vulnerable populations and infrastructure.

    This report from the World Federation of Public Health Associations recommends all countries develop a strategy to respond in the form of a national climate change and health plan.

    So I encourage you to look at this report, if your country is not represented, then complete the survey it contains to identify opportunities and gaps in your country and use it to advocate for a healthy response to climate change in your country, which includes the preparedness of the health sector, both mitigation and adaptation actions, and the engagement of health professionals in policy development.

    Additional to this work is a huge effort of advocacy for action at the local and regional level, as well as internationally, and this includes the recommendations for policy and action from health groups that are part of the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), of which our organisation is part.

    A new briefing paper, called Health and Climate in 2015 and Beyond, is available on the GCHA website and it calls for, among other things for:

     

    • each country to include an evaluation of health benefits and risks associated with emissions reductions their Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDCs)
    • to urgently phasing out coal from energy systems
    • phase out fossil fuel subsidies and use the funds to accelerate the transition to renewable energy

    So there is an important role for health professionals and health organisations, that is all of you, to intervene in this effort “ to advocate for the energy transition, to participate in the effort to shift the finances away from fossil fuels, and to be part of demanding accountability from your elected representatives to respond to this as an urgent health issue, for which there is a comprehensive evidence base, and to make sure there are political and electoral consequences that the health community is helping to lead, if they fail to respond."

  • The health implications of energy choices in Australia

    CAHA Executive Director Fiona Armstrong was invited to speak at this high level health event held in Paris during COP21 - 'Health Professionals in Action on Healthy Energy and Climate' organised by Health and Environment Alliance Europe (HEAL) held at Conseil National de l'Ordre de Medecins (CNOM) on 4th December 2015. A transcript of her presentation appears below:

    Quote: "The health implications of energy policy decisions should be core business for public health professionals. Governments and policymakers are being influenced by industry incumbents to support the status quo; health professionals must highlight the direct and immediate harms to health from burning fossil fuels for electricity and transport, as well as the dramatic changes this causes to our global climate."

    Fiona Armstrong @ HEAL CNOM COP21 Healthy Energy

    "In Australia, it is estimated that the adverse health impacts from pollutants produced from coal fired electricity generation cost A$2.6 billion annually (likely a huge underestimate). The production?and combustion of petroleum and diesel for transport is a major source of air pollution that causes respiratory, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Air pollution results in 3000 premature deaths each year in Australia, and costs the nation up to $24.3 billion in health expenses every year. The DARA Climate Vulnerability Monitor estimated in 2012 the global costs to human health associated with the carbon intensive energy systems of the global economy is $540 billion each year, excluding health impacts resulting from climate change. If climate impacts on health are included, the total current cost to the global economy is estimated to be $1.2 trillion annually.

    • National action

    The Climate and Health Alliance has been leading an effort to focus the attention of health groups and policymakers on the health implications of energy choices since 2013. We convened a Roundtable of health leaders on this topic in 2013, including our Chief Medical Officer, representatives from public health, medical, and nursing organisations, as well as bureaucrats from health and energy departments, energy consultants and community advocates. We invited health sector stakeholders to consider their role in advocating for healthy energy choices, leading to the development of a Joint Statement as well as a comprehensive Position Paper and Background Paper on Health and Energy Choices (some copies are available here today and can be downloaded from the CAHA website).

    We also produced a film called the Human Cost of Power featuring public and environmental health experts discussing the risks to health from our current fossil based sources of power for electricity and transport as a public education tool. This year we turned our attention to the most carbon intensive region in Australia, the coal mining region of the Hunter Valley in NSW, in a report which documented the health impacts of the coal production cycle on local communities, and evaluated the economic costs associated with coal for local communities, for the regional and national economy and also to the global economy in terms of the contribution of Hunter Valley coal to global climate change. We have used these reports and the film to influence national and regional policy debates and have been successful in getting the issue on the political agenda in the case of the Hunter Valley report, with politicians from both major parties being publicly asked to respond to the report and its findings, and provoking a ferocious attack on the evidence we presented by the coal industry lobby group, who claims there was "absolutely no evidence" of harm to health from coal.

    Our calls for a moratorium on new coal are now being embraced by mainstream economic commentators, and the health impacts of coal now much more widely discussed in mainstream media. So far, there has been little response from national and state governments “ national energy policy documents remain delusional in the sense that they predict a strong future for coal and gas, and very often they ignore, and do not mention, climate change as an energy policy. From the community there has been a shift however, with a rapid increase in the take up of solar power, and adoption of energy efficiency measures, coupled with a carbon price, did lead to a drop in Australia's emissions a year or so ago. However the election of a Liberal-National Coalition government, with a climate sceptic as leader (only recently replaced), saw the removal of the carbon price and Australia's emissions are surging upwards again. Some of the responses from the NGO and third sector are more promising, with churches, universities, and superannuation companies pledging to limit their investments in coal. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Together with Doctors for the Environment Australia we will release a paper next year on the role of the health sector in divestment so we hope to see many more such announcements.

    • Lesson learnt:

    Casting energy policy as a health issue, and using it to draw attention to the health impacts of fossil fuel energy production, as well as being a climate change issue, has made the issue more accessible for some health professionals “ as they can appreciate the immediate, direct and local health impacts are an important issue for health professionals to intervene on. It helps to highlight the root causes and drivers of climate change as a point source health issue. This seems somewhat easier to grasp and to act on in some ways than the global impacts of climate change. The evidence shows that people care about their health “ and using this as framework for communicating the need for change in energy policy choices is something local communities and other advocates appreciate is powerful and effective in convincing many people (although not Australian politicians, yet) that burning fossil fuels is dangerous, outdated and there is no place for it in a healthy, sustainable, low carbon world."

  • Power, Money and Morals

    The following presentation was given at the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Vic branch) Health and Environment Conference in March 2015 by CAHA Executive Director, Fiona Armstrong. Below is a transcript of her speech and the slides from the presentation:

    Power, money, and morals - threats to our life supports

    This afternoon I'm going to talk about power, money and morals “ as threats to our life support systems.

    I hope that resonates with you as nurses and midwives, and that in your roles as nurses and midwives you feel compelled to respond to the threat that power and money and morals (or a lack thereof) poses to the biosphere “ that is, the life support systems on which we and all other species depend.

    So I'm talking about power in the sense of energy (electricity or gas or oil) and power in the sense of political / corporate / societal power.

    When I talk about money, I'm talking about the finances that are invested in power (all forms of it) and support the current structures of power in all senses, and when I talk about morals, I'm talking about the values that underpin the struggle to save the biosphere and the failure of political, corporate and to be honest, civil society leaders as well, to assume the ethical responsibilities that come with leadership.

    In beginning with power, I'm going to name to the major villain “ by no means the only “ but the single biggest driver of climate change and as such, one of the greatest threat to the biosphere, coal.

    Coal has made a major contribution to the development of human civilisation, but its days are over and its pursuit as an energy source in the 21st century is dangerous and potentially suicidal for our species and akin to the murder of others.

    The case is very clear: we cannot burn coal in Australia anymore.

    We can't burn coal anymore if the world is to have a better than 50% chance of avoiding global warming of more than 2 degrees “ a level scientists say is itself not safe.

    Right now, we're on track for 4-6 degree rise in the lifetimes of our children “ both a level and a rate of temperature rise completely unprecedented during the period of human civilisation.

    A rise that is happening too fast for many species to adapt to.

    To stop the temperatures rise, we have to stop producing greenhouse gases.

    Not talk about it, not argue about it.

    Stop.

    We now know there is a limited amount of greenhouse gases that can be produced if we are avoid global warming going beyond a level that may lead to non-linear, exponential and irreversible warming.

    That's good “ we've got a number to work with.

    The global carbon budget (as it is known) tells us how many gigatonnes of CO2 we've got left before we push things too, too far.

    But given we've already gone too far, we need to be careful.

    And we need to decide who gets to produce those last few emissions.

    Should it be us, who have already contributed over the last 150 years to global warming, and produce almost 20 tonnes of CO2 per person per year? Should we get a bigger share than Brazil, who produce just 1/6 our emissions per person? Or India, who produce about two tonnes per person per year? Is it fair, to say we want to burn more than our fair share of coal? What right do we have to produce more emissions than other nations who are also seeking to develop their economies, lift their people out of poverty, and provide jobs? So that's one of the issues around morals, and ethics and fairness.

    Another is: what right do politicians have to ignore scientific evidence on climate change? Ethicist and lawyer Donald Brown from Widener University in the US wrote recently, "although ordinary individuals may have no duty to go beyond their own personal opinion about the science of climate change, government officials who have the power to enact policies that could prevent catastrophic harm to millions of people around the world may not as a matter of ethics justify their refusal to support policies to reduce the threat of climate change on the basis of their uninformed opinions on climate science." If your MP says "I don't support policies to prevent dangerous climate change" because "I don't believe climate change is occurring" or "I'm not sure climate change is human caused", this position is not only unscientific, its also unethical and unjustifiable.

    Elected members of the parliament have a responsibility to rely on evidence, not their own opinion when it comes to making decisions about policy.

    Particularly when those decisions, as they do when it comes to climate and energy policy, as Donald says, have the power to affect the health and lives of millions of people around the world.

    Why are politicians so persuaded by industry arguments that they might ignore the repeated warnings of scientists? Why, for example, did Tony Abbott say in October of last year that: "coal is good for humanity?" It was straight out of the coal industry songbook.

    As journalist Graham Readfearn wrote, those words would have had the champagne corks popping out of bottles in coal company boardrooms around the world.

    In the lead-up to the G20 in Brisbane last year, while esteemed health scientists were writing open letters in the pages of the Medical Journal of Australia imploring the Prime Minister to put climate change on the agenda of the G20, the coal industry was pouring money into a PR campaign called Advanced Energy for Life.

     This campaign was aimed at influencing world leaders to join the industry in a newfound passion for "fighting energy poverty". The world's biggest coal company, Peabody Energy, teamed up with the world's biggest PR company Burson-Marsteller, whose previous work includes trying to discredit the science around harm to health from tobacco. This campaign suggests that without access to coal, the developed world will forever be consigned to poverty. In an extraordinary display of hubris, and to be frank, lies, they even claim: "coal is key to human health and welfare, along with a clean environment."

    As well as funding PR campaigns to try and deflect attention from the harm caused by coal to human health and climate change, the fossil fuel energy sector has actively funded think tanks and so-called scientists to try and discredit the evidence around climate change, pretend that gas is a clean energy (it's not), and suggest renewable energy is not up to task.

    They have been busy offering political donations to secure policies that privilege their industries and acting to destroy the renewable energy sector that poses a threat to their profits.

    Climate denier scientist Willie Soon for example received 100% of his research grants between 2002 and 2010 from fossil fuel interests.

    Australian coal lobby groups the Minerals Council and the Coal Association were part of an industry alliance that spent $8 million lobbying against the carbon tax, because it would create a financial disincentive to pollute, precisely what it was intended to do.

    The ironically named New Hope coal company donated $700,000 to the Liberal National party in Qld just before the last election “ a move many consider to be a bid to secure approval for the expansion of their controversial New Acland coal near Toowoomba.

    It was approved just weeks before the Qld election, a mine that has already destroyed the village of Acland, caused considerable suffering for its last remaining resident, and over the lifetime of the mine, will cause many illnesses and deaths from the pollution it produces, and the global warming it will help accelerate (7.5Mtpa to 2029).

    Eleven people died last year when the disused Hazelwood coal mine caught fire in the hat of the summer, cloaking the town of Morwell in a thick toxic cloud of smoke and ash for more than a month.

    Coal causes million of dollars a year in health damages, and hundreds of billions of dollars in global damages.

    Our recent report Coal and Health in the Hunter: Lessons from One Valley for the World estimated that current coal production in the Hunter Valley is responsible for climate damages of between $16-66 billion per annum.

    Just days after our report was released it was revealed the NSW government was working with the industry to pave the way to approve an additional 16 open cut mines, to join the 30 odd already in operation, without health impact assessment, without community consultation, without any assessment of the global harm they would cause.

    So what is at stake here? What are these life support systems, how are they at risk, and who says so? In 1992, 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel Laureates in the sciences, wrote an appeal entitled ˜World Scientists Warning to Humanity'.

    It said: "Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.

    Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources.

    If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.

    Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about." Last year, an international group of ecologists and biologists released their findings from a study which suggests we are now much closer to that collision.

    Stuart Pimm from Duke University said: "When you look at the range of unsustainable things that we are doing to the planet, changing the atmosphere, global warming, massively depleting fisheries, driving species to extinction, we realize that we have a decade or two." One of the consequences of failing to act is what climate scientist Michael Mann calls the procrastination penalty: "the longer we wait, the harder it will be".

    And it will be much more expensive.

    Mitigating climate change (that is cutting emissions, moving to a low carbon economy) now will be much cheaper than if we wait.

    But in terms of species loss, as they say, extinction is forever.

    So how do we respond, and where in the world are people and governments responding? Well, the good news is that the shift to the green economy is well underway.

    Industries based on green growth are now outperforming other asset classes and investments in extractive industries and fossil fuels are fast becoming a liability or worse, stranded assets.

    People, communities, cities, businesses, and some nations are responding.

    Energy producing, rather than energy consuming homes, are emerging.

    Zero carbon buildings, transport and energy systems are now possible.

    Local, chemical free, ethically produced and organic food systems are springing up.

    The health sector is responding “ over 10,000 hospitals and health services are now member of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network.

    Over ten health systems in Australia are now members, with over 40 major hospitals, and approximately 100 other health services, working together to reduce their carbon and environmental footprint.

    We also need to develop what the human ecologist Stephen Boyden describes as "biosensitive" societies, that is, a society which is sensitive to the biological needs of all living systems, and recognises their interdependence.

    The emphasis on "rewilding" in children's education, and exposing them more to nature is part of the effort to redevelop this.

    Educator and author Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute wrote recently about energy revolution that's underway.

    He says: "Industrial ecology, biomimicry, "cradle-to-cradle" manufacturing, local food, voluntary simplicity, permaculture, and green building are just a few of the strategies have emerged" that are part of the transition.

    Importantly many people are refusing to accept that the continuation of the current political failure is inevitable or acceptable; we are seeing increasing levels of political engagement across many sectors; people are organizing, speaking out, and taking action.

    Look at the powerful example of the Lock the Gate movement that has made coal seam gas a key election issue in NSW.

    Take my colleague Professor Colin Butler, an internationally respected public health researcher, contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who is so affronted by Australia's ludicrous, dangerous and irresponsible decisions about coal that he resorted to direct action and was arrested obstructing the efforts of Whitehaven coal to clear native threatened woodlands to develop a coal mine in the Leard Forest in NSW.

    Colin is practicing what he preaches “ he and I, along with Professor Peter Sainsbury, are the authors of a paper recently published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health in which we conclude, in the face of unbridled corporate power risking our collective future, where parliaments have become an evidence free zone, and politicians are for sale, civil disobedience is now necessary.

    It's not for everyone.

    But there is a role for everyone in reclaiming our democracy, for refusing to allow absurdly short term and ultimately self-destructive gains to be pursued when the costs are so great and the stakes are so high.

    I'm talking to all you here when I say: "Don't look the other way".

    Democracy, defending the future, and fighting injustice and greed is everyone's job, and it's particularly the job of people who are instinctively drawn to the caring professions, who care about fairness, equity and understand intergenerational responsibility.

    Slavery wasn't abolished, and women's rights didn't come about, by people waiting nicely for someone else to do the right thing.

    They had to be fought for.

    As members of a union, you are very well positioned to organise, and to confront these threats with collective power.

    If unions decided to make climate action an issue, governments would be unable to avoid acting to respond.

    As an organisation you can be part of building the social movement that demands political responses commensurate with the task at hand.

    A low carbon and healthy future is desirable, achievable with current technologies and budgets, in the timeframe that's necessary.

    And it's possible.

    But we'll have to fight for it.

    Let's make sure we can look our children and our grandchildren in the eye and say we didn't stand back.

    Or look the other way.

    Let's make their future safe, and pass on a world we are proud to say we fought to protect.

    Thank-you.

    Download slides: Power, money and morals- threats to our life support systems ANMF 20 March 2015

  • Are you going to stand back and let the coal industry determine our future? Or are you going to fight for it?

    Dear Friends and Colleagues, 

    As you know, the G20 Leaders Summit is on this weekend in Brisbane and world leaders are gathering to talk about issues ranging from development, employment, taxation, infrastructure, investment and trade. But not climate change. Meanwhile the coal industry is at the G20, working to secure greater subsidies and less regulation of their deadly product.

    Coal causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year, largely from exposure to air pollution from coal fired power plants in developing nations. Leading climate and energy scientists from around the world say any further expansion of coal is incompatible with avoiding dangerous climate change. Coal must be quickly substituted for zero emission technologies, and the majority of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground.

    However the Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared "coal is good for humanity" and "coal is essential for the prosperity of the world". The Qld Premier Campbell Newman recently claimed those opposing Australia's coal exports are "condemning people in China, but particularly in India, who live in poverty, condemning them to that poverty." He went on to say: "To take 1.3 billion people in India out of poverty is going to require significant energy, and coal particularly is what they're after." India doesn't want our coal This might come as something of a surprise to the people of India, wrote Indian energy policy analyst Shankar Sharma in an open letter to the Qld Premier last week: "This statement, if reported correctly, indicates to me that you did not have the benefit of effective briefing by your officers. Not only is it "highly irrational to assume that everyone in 1.3 billion is poor," writes Mr Sharma, but "it is surprising that it seems that you have not been briefed on the social and environmental aspects of burning large quantities of coal in a densely populated and resource constrained country like India."

    The Indian Energy Minister Piyush Goyal has just told the World Economic Forum they will be investing US$100bn in renewable energy in the next five years. Coal isn't the answer to energy access. Access to electricity for poor people in the developing world can be provided much more cheaply and cleanly with renewable energy, with none of the risks to health posed by fossil fuels, or the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

    The coal industry plan to expand, regardless of the damage they cause Coal industry leaders know their days are numbered. That's why they have engaged Burson-Marsteller, the PR company which handled the PR for the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, India and formerly made a living spruiking the benefits of tobacco. Now they've helped Peabody Energy and others set up the Advanced Energy for Life campaign, aimed at influencing world leaders to help them "fight energy poverty" and suggesting that without access to coal, the developed world will forever be consigned to poverty. In an extraordinary display of hubris, they even claim "coal is key to human health and welfare, along with a clean environment."

    As they make plain in this video, their goal is to secure policy commitments from world leaders at the G20 that support the expansion of coal.

    We can't let this happen! As health and medical professionals, we can't just stand back and allow the coal industry to wreck the planet and cause the deaths of thousands of people in this callous and calculated pursuit of profit. The industry is on the attack “ just last week, when CAHA President and Australian National University climate and health researcher Dr Liz Hanna responded to the sobering findings of the latest IPCC report by pointing to the dangers of Australian coal exports, Minerals Council CEO Brendan Pearson responded by suggesting Dr Hanna was "unable to distinguish between ideological prejudice and scholarship"!

    What can you do? Write a letter to the editor or an opinion piece for publication in one of the major newspapers or online publications expressing your concerns about the unfettered expansion of coal in Australia and the risks it poses to people's health and the climate.

    Contact details: Courier Mail use this online form Brisbane Times use this online form The Australian [email protected] Sydney Morning Herald [email protected] The Age use this online form The Adelaide Advertiser use this online form The Canberra Times [email protected] The West Australian [email protected] The Hobart Mercury use this online form Northern Territory News use this online form Croakey (health blog at Crikey) [email protected] Climate Spectator [email protected] Renew Economy [email protected] The New Daily [email protected]

    Hit the airwaves ABC Radio Brisbane 1300 222 612 4BC 13 13 32 ABC Radio National 1300 225 576 Get cracking on social media

    • Twitter “ tweet the Premier @theqldpremier and let him know your thoughts on the matter (use these hash tags: #climate #coal #climate2014 #renewables #G20)
    • Facebook “ share these infographics here here and here and some of the links below

    Need more information? Here are some links to recent reports:

    Here are some useful newspaper articles:

    Here are some recent health / medical journal articles:

    Here are some resources on coal and health:

    More useful resources on http://endcoal.org/

  • CAHA and Climate Council Joint Statement on Coal and Health

    Joint Statement on the Health Effects of Coal in Australia

    The Climate and Health Alliance and the Climate Council have released a Joint Statement on the Health Effects of Coal in Australia in response to the Inquiry report from Hazelwood coal mine fire in Victoria, saying: "Australia's heavy reliance on coal for electricity generation and massive coal industry expansion present significant risks to the health of communities, families and individuals."

    The Joint Statement calls for: health risks to be considered in all energy policy and investment decisions; independent air, water and soil quality monitoring at and around every coal mine and power station in Australia; and funding for research into health, social and environmental impacts of coal. The Joint Statement is accompanied by a Briefing Paper on Health Effects of Coal in Australia which outlines the scientific health and medical literature on the impacts on health from the production of coal. The Joint Statement is signed by Professor Fiona Stanley, Professor Tim Flannery from the Climate Council and Dr Liz Hanna, President of Climate and Health Alliance on behalf of CAHA's 27 member organisations.

    The Joint Statement reads: "We, the undersigned, accept the clear evidence that:
    1. coal mining and burning coal for electricity emits toxic and carcinogenic substances into our air, water and land;
    2. coal pollution is linked to the development of potentially fatal diseases and studies show severe health impacts on miners, workers and local communities;
    3. Australia's heavy reliance on coal for electricity generation and massive coal industry expansion present significant risks to the health of communities, families and individuals; and
    4. emissions from coal mine fires, like the recent Hazelwood mine fire in Victoria, and the release of heavy metal and organic compounds, pose health risks for surrounding populations, such as respiratory and heart disease, cancers and other health conditions.

     

    "We believe that Federal and State governments must urgently research and account for these risks to human health starting with consistent air, water and soil quality monitoring at and around every coal mine and power station in Australia.

    "We are calling on governments and industry to acknowledge the significant human health risks associated with the whole lifecycle of coal production “ mining, transportation, combustion and the disposal of waste “ and to urgently fund research and account for these risks in policy, planning and investment decisions in Australia.

    "While we recognise the role coal played in the industrial revolution “ as an important energy source helping advance economies and improve livelihoods “ studies now show that every phase of coal's lifecycle presents major human health risks and contributes to ecological degradation, loss of biodiversity and climate change.

    "In addition to the release of greenhouse gases, which are the primary cause of climate change, coal mining and electricity generation emit known toxic and carcinogenic substances into our air, water and land.

    These emissions include mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, nitrogen oxides and inhalable airborne particulates.

    "Authoritative studies in Europe and the United States show severe health impacts from coal emissions on miners, workers and local communities.

    These studies link coal pollution to the development of potentially fatal diseases, resulting in thousands of premature deaths and costing national economies tens to hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

    In the United States, the Physicians for Social Responsibility found that coal contributes to four of the five leading causes of mortality: heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic respiratory diseases.

    Health risks are not limited to mining and combustion.

    Emissions from coal mine fires are linked to lung cancer, bronchitis, heart disease and other health conditions.

    At home, despite Australia's heavy reliance on coal for electricity generation “ it provides 75% of our electricity supply “ research and monitoring of the resulting health effects is limited.

    Most research has been conducted overseas, whereas in Australia - one of the world's leading producers, consumers and exporters of coal - the burden of disease remains under investigated.

    Furthermore, the disease burden will escalate as the massive coal industry expansion underway in Australia presents additional risk to human health in Australia and overseas.

    The significant health costs associated with coal are not currently reflected in the price of coal-fired electricity in Australia.

    In 2009, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) estimated coal's health impacts cost taxpayers $2.6 billion every year.

    "A dire lack of monitoring and research in Australia is letting down coal mining communities." Recommendations:

    1. Coal's human health risks must be properly considered and accounted for in all energy and resources policy and investment decisions.

    2. We also encourage the investment in education and training opportunities to support coal mining communities to transition away from fossil fuel industries towards new industries.

    3. National standards for consistent air, water and soil quality monitoring at and around every coal mine and power station in Australia conducted by an independent body with no relationship to the coal industry.

    4. Adequate funding allocated for research to evaluate the health, social and environmental impacts of coal in coal mining communities.

    This joint statement is signed by Professor Tim Flannery, Professor Fiona Stanley, the Climate Council of Australia and the Climate and Health Alliance representing its 27 health organisations as members.

    Professor Tim Flannery, Chief Councillor, The Climate Council of Australia
     
    Professor Fiona Stanley, Distinguished Research Professor, School of Paediatrics and Child Health (SPACH), The University of Western Australia, a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at the University of Melbourne and the Patron of the Telethon Kids Institute.    
       Dr. Liz Hanna, President of the Climate and Health Alliance  
  • Sydney screening: The Human Cost of Power

    The new short film, The Human Cost of Power, a project of the Climate and Health Alliance and Public Health Association of Australia, will be screened in Sydney on 20th November 2013. An event at the University of Notre Dame will be the first NSW screening of the film that explores the health and climate impacts of coal and gas. When: 6.00pm-7.30pm Wednesday 20th November 2013 Where: Lecture Theatre NDS14/201, University of Notre Dame, 160 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW. Download a campus map here.

  • The Human Cost of Power

    Film Screening

    A new short film, 'The Human Cost of Power', produced by award winning science journalist, Alexandra de Blas will be previewed at a public forum in Melbourne on Wednesday 18th September 2013. The film, 'The Human Cost of Power' explores the health impacts associated with the massive expansion of coal and unconventional gas in Australia. The public forum will feature expert speakers including University of Melbourne researcher Dr Jeremy Moss, climate scientist Professor David Karoly, Friends of the Earth campaigner Cam Walker, and Dr Jacinta Morahan from Surf Coast Air Action. The Human Cost of Power is produced for the Climate and Health Alliance and the Public Health Association of Australia. The forum is supported by the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Melbourne. The public forum and film screening will be held from 6.00pm-7.30pm at the Laby Theatre, Room L108, Physics South Building 192, University of Melbourne on Wednesday 18th September 2013. Eventbrite - The Human Cost of Power For more information about the film, and CAHA's work on this topic, check out our Healthy Energy Projects page.
  • Energy policy like profiting from slavery

    This article was first published on ABC Environment Online on 19th February 2013. Anyone holding onto the quaint notion that our elected representative govern in the interests of the community will see how false that is when they look at energy policy in Australia, writes Fiona Armstrong. Australia is currently in the middle of a coal rush. Coupled with the exploration of coal seam gas expanding at a rapid rate across Queensland and New South Wales, this looks (on paper) to be one of the country's biggest and most rapid industry expansions in our short history. Australia is currently the world's largest exporter of metallurgical coal and ranks sixth in exports of thermal coal. In 2012, we sold around $60 billion worth of coal, mostly to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Looking to the future, Australia's national energy policy, theEnergy White Paper, anticipates strong demand from these nations for Australian coal and prioritises coal production as a core element of energy for the coming decades. Around 30 new coal mines and coal mine expansions are planned for New South Wales and Queensland, and if they proceed would more than double Australia's current coal exports of more than 300 million tonnes per annum. Much of the current expansion of coal is predicated on rising demand from China, and India; a stable global economic environment; and industry denial about climate science. These assumptions have shaky foundations and investors should heed the clear warning from risk experts of the imminent destruction of value of high-carbon investments and that climate change will continue to deliver systemic shocks to regional and global economies. China is reportedly looking to cap energy production from coal and indicated that coal consumption will peak during the next five year plan. These announcements suggest the Australian coal industry's expectation of an ongoing boom is inflated by wishful thinking. Closer to home, research from the Australia Institute suggests the expansion of coal exports is adversely affecting the national economy - its growth occurs at the expense of other industries. It suggests cutting coal production would lead to a net economic benefit, with growth made possible in other sectors such as manufacturing, tourism and education. And regardless of where it's burnt, Australia's coal represents a huge contribution to global emissions. Proposed coal exports would lead to an additional 700 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, and would place Australia (just the Galilee Basin in Qld alone) at a ranking of seventh largest contributor in the world to global CO2 emissions arising from the burning of fossil fuels. For a nation that likes to pretend we contribute only 1.5 per cent to global emissions, that's quite a jump in our contribution. What does it mean for our climate commitments? The International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2012 (pdf) was quite clear about the prospects for limiting damages and reversing climate change associated with global warming from burning fossil fuels. Quite simply, if the world wishes to limit warming to less than two degrees (a level that is considered the absolute maximum in order to prevent escalating and irreversible warming trends), we cannot even exploit existing fossil fuel reserves, much less liberate even more. The expansion of coal and coal seam gas (given the high emissions signature of CSG from emissions during extraction) would completely negate many times over any gains that are made from emissions reductions achieved through Australia's carbon price. There is also serious harm to human health associated with the coal rush. The burning of coal for electricity is associated with the compromised health of thousands of people living in proximity to these plants. The mining and transportation of coal also carries serious health risks from coal dust and toxic pollutants released during extraction and rail transport to ports. But who is looking out for the community in terms of protecting health and wellbeing? For those who still hold the quaint notion that elected parliamentary representatives might be interested in achieving the best outcomes for the community, it's disappointing news. State governments appear willing to approve projects despite serious community opposition because of the revenue they provide in mining royalties. Climate risk is severely underestimated in the Australian Government's Energy White Paper, and Premiers Newman and O'Farrell also appear oblivious to the climate implications of their respective coal booms. Even the health professionals have been missing in action, with communities such as those in Maules Creek in NSW and adjacent to a fourth coal export terminal in Newcastle forced to undertake or organise their own health impact assessments from proposed coal projects. Supported by volunteer groups such as Doctors for the Environment, community groups are researching health impacts, setting up air quality monitoring, and collecting baseline health data. Last week however signaled a shift in the involvement of the health and medical community in Australia. Health leaders met at a national Roundtable in Canberra last week and resolved to engage more directly with energy policy in this country, to see that the local and global implications of the coal rush are highlighted in terms of the impact on health. Speaking to the Roundtable of around 40 health care leaders, Professor Colin Butler from the School of Public Health at Canberra University said: "Australia's reliance on the export of coal is no more justifiable than profiting from slavery or the supply of cocaine. Of course, energy is vital, including in Asia, but a clever country would develop energy technologies that can wean civilisation from its highly dangerous reliance on 19th century technology." A statement (pdf) from the Roundtable participants said: "The risks to human health from energy and resources policy are not being well accounted for in current policy decisions. Significant policy reform is needed to ensure health and wellbeing is not compromised by policy decisions in other sectors. Recognising the importance of the social and environmental determinants of health is an important part of that." Clearly, relying on the weight of evidence in relation to climate and human health is insufficient to lead to effective, safe, equitable policy. Many of us who participated in the meeting in Canberra last week believe civil society leaders such as health professionals and health sector executives have a responsibility to help develop policy in every sector that protects and promotes health. This involves getting a better understanding of health risks associated with energy and climate policy - and making sure the community is aware of these risks as they prepare to vote for a new national government. Because right now, energy policy is possibly our greatest threat to health on the planet. Fiona Armstrong is the Convenor of the Climate and Health Alliance, which together with Public Health Association of Australia,Climate Change Adaptation Research Network - Human Health, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, and National Rural Health Alliance co-hosted the Health Implications of Energy Policy Roundtable and Workshop.
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