Pages tagged "energy"

  • Greening the healthcare sector: Policy Think Tank

    The second annual CAHA - AHHA think tank on sustainability on the health care sector was held in Melbourne on 30th August 2013.

    We heard from international speaker Dr Blair Sadler from the University of California and the successful Healthier Hospitals Initiative as well as local and interstate sustainable healthcare professionals sharing their experiences. Josh Karliner from Health Care Without Harm shared a innovative new communications platform that's connecting people working on greening the health sector initiatives worldwide! Check out this report via Croakey for a Twitter report of the day's events. Click here for Program details. Full report coming soon!
  • 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.
  • Spreading the word

    CAHA has been out and about talking to students, health professional and the community about climate change. Check out some of these presentations here: The Art and Science of Policy Advocacy - Latrobe University May 2013 The Implications of Climate Change for Women - Australian Women's Health Conference 2013    
  • Climate and health Clinic at SLF 2013

    A big shout out to the wonderful health promotion practitioners and students who participated in the Climate and Health Alliance's initiative at the Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival for the second year in 2013. Here, volunteer Sally talks about what they got up to and what the Climate and Health Clinic is about.
  • 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.
  • Have you signed the DOHA Declaration on Climate, Health and Well-being?

    Health Must Be Central to Climate Action

    The international health and medical community have developed a joint statement on climate health and wellbeing calling for health to be central to national and global climate action. Signatories include the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, International Federation of Medical Students, Health Care Without Harm, Climate and Health Alliance, European Public Health Association, Public Health Association of Australia, Royal College of General Practitioners (UK), Climate and Health Council, OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council, NHS Sustainable Development Unit, Umeå Center for Global Health Research, Australian Medical Students' Association (AMSA) and many others. The Doha Declaration outlines why health experts are extremely worried about slow progress on climate action, and highlights how the health co-benefits of emissions can build support for ambitious climate strategies. If you want to support this statement, sign up here:

  • 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.
  • 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

  • Whats a climate and health clinic?

    CAHA ran its first ever 'pop-up' Climate and Health Clinic at the 2012 Sustainable Living Festival. Here, CAHA Convenor Fiona Armstrong talks about the clinic, about the roving health promoters, and what it means to get a 'prescription for a healthy planet and a healthy you'.
  • The shock of the new should not be confused with a new kind of shock

    The summer holidays provide an opportunity for many of us in our largely urbanised population to revisit rural landscapes as we travel to visit relatives, go camping or engage in that Aussie summer favourite, a trip to the beach. The encroachment of urban developments and industrial structures on previously bucolic rural vistas comes as a shock as we pass remembered landscapes suddenly altered by the telltale signs of human existence. A new housing estate, factory, freeway, rail line, mine or power station; all change our natural environment in fundamental and inescapably distinct ways. We may wistfully recall a sleepier, untouched time and place; but the change is quickly forgotten as we pass, and its impact fades until the next visit. For those who inhabit changing landscapes however, the changes can disrupt one's sense of place and sense of identity, and can lead to feelings sometimes associated with grief and loss. As our steadily growing human population leaves its mark across the globe, with seven billion of us now sprawling out across seven continents, there are few places on Earth now left untouched. This is having dramatic impacts on the natural environment, but are changes people largely accept because of the benefits those developments bring to human society (and the trappings of Western lifestyles many of us have come to expect): high speed Internet, road transport infrastructure commensurate with our predilection for cars, and reliable electricity and water supplies. Much of this infrastructure development occurs infrequently, being big ticket items so costly that governments shy away from them, and substantial investments therefore only take place every decade or so. In Australia this has left us with much ageing and inadequate infrastructure, particularly in the energy and transport sectors. We are likely to see significant changes in terms of infrastructure development to address this in coming decades. As the planning and development of this new infrastructure takes place, it will be important to keep in perspective its purpose and to choose technologies that pose the least environmental risk and are the safest in terms of their impact on human and ecological health. Part of the impetus in the energy sector is the declining quality of existing infrastructure - our forty to fifty year old coal fired power stations have passed their use-by date, and it is only the cost of their replacement (and the histrionics of their politically powerful owners) that appear to compel governments to award ongoing licences to operate. There are even more compelling pressures to upgrade our energy infrastructure however; the mining, transportation, and burning of coal for electricity generation poses serious threats to human health and is responsible for hundreds, possibly thousands of avoidable deaths each year from the toxins and pollution produced by this process. Coal kills; and whether we burn it here or ship it offshore for others to burn, it will lead to loss of life and the development of serious illnesses and human suffering. Not only does coal poses a health threat, it is the principal villain in driving dangerous climate change worldwide, and its replacement therefore one of the big potential wins in cutting national emissions and reducing our very high level of emissions per person. Gas too poses serious risks - given the shift to shallow coal seam gas mining as traditional natural gas reserves diminish, fertile farmland is being lost to industrial wastelands, and underground water tables threatened by the use of mining chemicals untested for human safety. Coupled with the emerging evidence that coal seam gas poses as big a threat to atmospheric pollution as coal (it may have an even higher lifecycle emissions profile than coal), this leaves renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind in the box seat in terms of safety for human health and as climate friendly technologies. There are powerful vested interests however in preventing the widespread roll out of these technologies and recent activities suggest these interests are promoting anxiety and concern in the community regarding the safety of some renewable energy technology, such as wind power. Often these concerns can be heightened by a sense of disruption with regard to place identity and are understandable human responses to changes in the known environment. It is important to however not to confuse these responses with genuine concerns with regard to wellbeing, and the community must be careful not to allow those with vested interests to exploit the public's sense of vulnerability around change and lack of access to credible information by promoting fears about the safety of wind power. Recent reviews of the scientific literature demonstrate that there is no credible peer reviewed scientific evidence that demonstrates a link between wind turbines and adverse health impacts in people living in proximity to them. A new paper has been developed by a coalition of Australian health groups should assuage community concerns on this topic. The Health and Wind Turbines position paper, released by the Climate and Health Alliance today, finds that while large-scale commercial wind farms have been in operation internationally for many decades, often in close proximity to thousands of people, there is no evidence of any associated increases in ill-health. Change in our known environment can be challenging. Investing in safe community infrastructure is important for all of us. In making decisions about our future energy supply, we must consider the costs of current forms of electricity generation on climate change and health for all members of the community, including those living in proximity to infrastructure. Fortunately for the community and the climate, wind power offers a safe, reliable, climate-friendly alternative to harmful and high emissions from coal, and is available now at prices we can afford. This article first appeared on Climate Spectator on January 25, 2012.