Pages tagged "General"

  • An overwhelming case for people to take to the streets for the sake of CLIMATE HEALTH

    Editor: Melissa Sweet Author: Grace FitzGerald (republished from Croakey Health Blog) Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 1.25.42 pm                    

     

    It's not yet summer, and soaring temperatures and bushfires, in Australia and elsewhere, are focussing attention on the health threats of climate change. Ahead of the United Nations climate conference (COP21) in Paris, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a statement warning that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. These deaths are due to shifting patterns of disease from extreme weather events “ such as heat-waves and floods “ and from the degradation of air quality, food and water supplies, and sanitation, it says Thousands of People's Climate marches are planned around the world for November 28 and 29. While the French government has banned a street march planned for Paris in the wake of recent terror attacks, organisers say it is now even more important for people around the world to come out onto the streets for "the biggest global climate march in history" to protest "on behalf of those who can't". In Australia, the health sector is expected to be prominent at the marches, with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians among groups organising for members to take part. In the article below, medical student Grace FitzGerald explains why she will be joining the march in Melbourne. At the bottom of her article, please check the links to other recent climate news, including tweets from two climate health events this week. ***

    Climate change: A health threat that also presents enormous opportunities

    Grace FitzGerald writes:

    Grace

    The Met Hadley Office in the UK recently announced that global temperatures will this year exceed one degree Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels for the first time. The significance of this landmark cannot be understated. In the words of some of Australia's leadingpublic health experts, "Beyond two degrees of warming, health impacts threaten to become increasingly unmanageable". There couldn't be a greater urgency for action to protect health and wellbeing from the devastating effects of climate change. The prestigious medical journal The Lancet has described climate change as "the greatest health threat of the 21st century".

    The evidence is irrefutable “ climate change poses unprecedented risks to human health and wellbeing. Taking strong action to protect our land, our water, our food and our communities is critical to protecting health and wellbeing of Australians and people around the globe. In the "land of drought and flooding plains", we are all too frequently reminded of the vulnerability of human health and wellbeing to the wrath of nature. Climate change in Australia is likely to contribute to increased deaths and injuries, particularly among children and the elderly, related to worsening heat waves and other extreme weather events.

    We are not unfamiliar with the fury of heatwaves, such as that which killed 374 Victorians in a single week of January 2009. As weather patterns change, we will face increased water scarcity and food insecurity from drought and floods. Climatic changes to date mean rainfall across south-eastern Australia is likely to decrease by up to 15% before 2030, regardless of whether greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

    As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, there will be a spread of food, water, and mosquito-borne infectious diseases in Australia. By 2050, there will be between 205,000 and 335,000 new cases of bacterial gastroenteritis in Australia each year, and up to 870,000 cases by 2100. An additional 335,000 cases could result in $92.3 million in health and surveillance costs and 1.6 million lost workdays Those of us working in health services will be at the frontline of responding to this increased burden of disease. The increased demand on health and emergency services during extreme weather events is difficult to calculate, as extreme weather can aggravate pre-existing illness.

    However, the 2014 heatwaves in Victoria contributed to 203 heat-related deaths, a 20-fold increase in the number of ambulance call-outs, a four-fold increase in calls to nurses-on call and a four-fold increase in calls to locum doctors. The cost associated with damage to hospitals and health infrastructure from extreme weather events is likely to be immense. Indeed repairs to health facilities subsequent to the2011 Queensland floods cost taxpayers $18.1 million. The implications of climate change on the social, economic and environmental determinants of mental health cannot be ignored. In Australia, it has been estimated that the relative risk of suicide can increase by up to 15 percent for rural males aged 30-49 as the severity of drought increases.

    Much of the mental health burden is borne by individuals in under-serviced communities with limited access to appropriate support services. Cruelly illustrative of the social gradient of health, marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Australia will feel the effects of a changing climate most acutely and most severely. Rural and indigenous Australians, low-income individuals and families, and people with chronic diseases will be the first to experience the physiological implications of climate change http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1bb6887d6f8cacd5d844fc30b0857931.pdf

    Climate change is a disease amplifier, and will exacerbate many of the health inequities that plague Australia today. Australia is fortunate to have more resilience to the challenges of a changing climate than many less-developed nations. However our island girt by sea will not be untouched by the suffering of others. As our neighbours in the Pacific Islands are threatened by rising sea levels, Australia will have to determine how to respond to an influx of climate refugees. The combined challenges of food an water insecurity and mass displacement are likely to pose significant national security threats.

    Heath opportunities

    Tackling climate change will dramatically improve human health. For example, particulate air pollution contributes to the deaths of up to 2,400 Australians every year “ more than the annual road toll.

    Indeed, pollution from coal combustion and motor-vehicles in Australia is estimated to carry health impact costs of $2.6 and $2.7 billion respectively per annum (see here and here). A move away from fossil-fuel combustion thus has resounding benefits for reducing the burden of disease in Australia. Action to prevent catastrophic climate change is no longer a question of technological or economic capability. Australia is well placed to achieve 100 percent of energy generation from renewable energy by 2050, and could do so without incurring massive adjustment costs or depressing economic growth.

    Transitioning to a renewable energy economy will drastically reduce the burden of respiratory disease, and provide tens of thousands of sustainable jobs in regional areas. Ensuring the efficiency and resilience of our agriculture systems will safeguard the access of all Australians to high quality, nutritious foods. Revolutionising our urban spaces to make them more bike and pedestrian friendly will drastically cut the burden of non-communicable diseases. Sincere commitments to greening our hospitals and healthcare systems, will minimize waste, maximize efficiency and enable our limited healthcare budget to be spent supporting our valuable workforce in their contributions to the community.

    The impetus for action is clear. The longer it takes for our government to commit to strong action to mitigate climate change, the larger the burden of disease in the community will be. As health professionals we have a duty to advocate for the health and wellbeing of our patients. Ours is a respected and valued voice in the community; the voice of evidence-based insight and of demonstrated compassion.

    A sincere commitment to the protect health and wellbeing of Australians requires a genuine, urgent effort to tackle climate change. As world leaders convene in Paris for the 21st Conference of Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, communities around the world are mobilising in an unprecedented demonstration of the support for action on climate change. Around the world, the health and science sectors will join the People's Climate Marches to send a resounding message to decision makers that we are firmly committed the pursuit of a healthier future.

    Join us in Australia by RSVPing to peoplesclimate.org/#health, and joining your local march in the color white. ¢ Grace FitzGerald is a medical student at Monash University, and in 2015 co-project managed the Australian Medical Students' Association Code Green project. A "climate octopus", Grace has worked in a volunteer capacity with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Doctors for the Environment Australia, the Climate and Health Alliance, Healthy Futures and 350.org. Grace has been on the Victorian Organising Committee engaging the health sector in the People's Climate Marches.

  • Do you have the Power to Persuade? A workshop on building knowledge and capacity for policy change

    By Fiona Armstrong How to translate research evidence into policy? What research methodologies offer the best results for social policy outcomes? How can researchers, policymakers and the third sector work together to deliver better results for people and communities? How do we create policy networks that can be adaptive, resilient and flexible enough to respond to the significant societal challenges we face? The Power to Persuade forum hosted by University of Melbourne and Good Shepherd on Wednesday 5th September 2012 brought together researchers, service providers, policymakers and policy advocates to discuss some of these questions to build a better collective understanding of the necessary elements of effective social policy outcomes. Transforming governance Keynote speaker Mark Considine acknowledged the need for transformational change in public policy development, and proposed the establishment of civil society governance networks, built on "deep partnerships" between institutions and other actors, and guided by judicial bureaucratic mandates, may provide a model for the kind of societal leadership that can fill the gaps currently created by the 'short termism' endemic in current political governance. Considine pointed to complex policy challenges such as climate change, food insecurity and people movement, suggesting that the capacity for transformational change needed to address these issues may not reside in existing institutions, and if we are to avoid disruption and upheaval triggered by environmental shock, new governance networks are needed. Building the sorts of partnerships required for adaptive resilient policy responses can begin through, for example, data sharing, pooled budgets and shared research, to build trust and common goals - and these smaller steps can lead to deeper ties over time that can better manage and respond to transformational change. Economics and policy decision-making Economist Alan Sheill spoke about the harsh realities of having to determine priorities in health and how economics can provide important insights about cost: benefit ratios to inform decision-making. While for health and welfare professionals, service providers and policymakers this is a challenging dimension of social policy, Shiell says: "we do not have enough resources (time, finances, space etc) to do everything we would wish to do to promote health and social well-being - therefore we need to choose". However, economic evidence is not always necessary, not does it always inform policy decision-making, Friell said, pointing out that very often, the public and politicians are not aware of the economic cost of political decisions. It was important for social policy advocates to use the rhetoric of economic costs to build support for actions, but recognize that economic analysis does not always reflect broader social benefits and there is a need to develop research methods that can incorporate less easily quantifiable health and social wellbeing gains from social policy initiatives. Methodologies and case studies Other speakers outlined case studies and research methodologies that offer powerful and effective examples of social policy innovation, such as J2SI, a long term program for homelessness. Damon Alexander shared some insights into the benefits of Social Network Analysis, a research method that is being used in multiple ways eg to map strategic information networks to evaluate innovation in government, look at information flows of strategic advice within primary care partnerships, and understand formal and informal relationships within organisations. Social network analysis was a powerful tool for understanding relationships between actors in a particular policy environment, and mapping "what" happens and "when" but not so much about "how" or "why"¦ Other case studies included great examples of participatory rights based methodologies from Karen Dowling from the Victorian Department of Education on ˜Listen 2 Learners'; and Leo Fieldgrass from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence on ˜Mobile Matters'. Final word John Falzon from St Vincent de Paul responded to this session, and spoke about the exceptionally important job of engaging with community and with people in developing social policy, finished with a poetic warning from Martin Luther King in saying: "A riot is at best the language of the unheard." Like all good modern events, the Twitter stream provided insight into people's thinking. You can search for some of the twitter stream on the forum by using the hash tag: #powertopersuade - a small sample is reproduced here: Dean Lombard?@vcossDean Evidence is important, but clearly not enough. Plenty evidence of the social harm of problem gambling; but still no change #powertopersuade Philip Wallis?@philipwallis Hearing from @KazzaD1 about using social media for student participation in policy development #powertopersuade   John Falzon?@JohnFalzon The question has been posed: who should we be trying to persuade? #powertopersuade #powertothepeople nyunkia tauss?@nyunkiatauss In effective system, all doors shd be the right door, whether it's for people in dire need or not. Great concept @vcossdean #powertopersuade Karen Dowling?@KazzaD1 Kathy Landvogt, Good Shepherd at #PowertoPersuade used SNA to look at effectivenss of financial services 4 ppl needing help.'No wrong door' GSY&FS Advocacy?@GoodAdvocacy How do you know you are making a difference? Using health economics to measure outcomes #powertopersuade Marie McInerney?@mariemcinerney Great insights into challenges and promise of Sacred Heart Mission's J2SI chronic homelessness research proj #powertopersuade - stay tuned. CAHA Inc?@healthy_climate Economist Alan Shiell: valuable health interventions via unexpected approaches eg reduce HIV through micro financing #powertopersuade

  • Talking about climate and health

    CAHA has been out and about talking about climate and health.   The last few weeks have included:

    • a workshop at the Australian Climate Action Summit in Sydney (with Dr Helen Redmond) on using the health frame to talk about climate change;
    • a talk at the New South Wales Nurses Association on the role of health professionals in advocating for climate action;
    • a report from COP17 in Durban to the Nossal Institute Centre for Global Health journal club on getting health into the international climate negotations;
    • a seminar at Deakin University on the role of health professionals as policy advocates.

    You can download the the slides from each of the presentations here:

    Using the health frame to encourage support for climate action
    The role of health professionals in advocating for climate action
    Getting health into the international climate negotations
    The role of health professionals as policy advocates

    CAHA can provide experts in climate and health to present at public events and comment in media - contact CAHA Convenor [email protected] or call 0438 900 005.

  • Coal powered energy is a public health issue

    This article was written by Dr Helen Redmond from Doctors for the Environment Australia for Medical Observer on 21st November 2011.
    COAL is a health hazard and Australia has an addiction to it. Our state and federal governments have not acknowledged the health consequences of mining and combusting coal, although evidence for harm to human health is well documented in the scientific literature.

    Precious little research has been done in Australia despite coal communities like those in the Upper Hunter region of New South Wales asking for comprehensive health studies for nearly a decade. Earlier this year an article in the MJA highlighted the health impacts of coal and summarises the available literature,1 but governments appear reluctant to find information that would slow the mining juggernaut and the flow of royalties. Coal is a health hazard because every stage in the life cycle of its production from exploration, extraction, processing, transport and combustion produces a waste stream of air and water pollutants that harm human health. Communities living around mountaintop removal coal mines in the US have a higher incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease, lung and kidney disease, low birth weight as well as higher rates of birth defects and learning difficulties, even when results are adjusted for age, level of education and smoking status. Children are particularly vulnerable. Burning coal releases mercury, lead, chromium, carbon monoxide, fine particulates, arsenic and sulphuric acid to name just a few. Living within 30 miles (48.2 km) of a coal-fired power station increases the risk of premature death by 3“4 times compared with living at a distance from coal power stations. Coal is also a health hazard because it is the largest contributor to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. The 2009 Global Humanitarian Forum Climate Change Human Impact Report estimates climate change now claims 315,000 lives annually and severely affects 325 million people. This is only the beginning of a prolonged rise in such effects. Addiction is a disorder where short-term dependence overrides the capacity for reasoned decision-making despite damaging long-term consequences. In an individual with an addiction, their welfare and that of those close to them suffers. In the case of our addiction to coal, individual citizens and whole communities suffer while governments do not accept the responsibility of harms beyond their term of government. It is easier to take another dose of coal than the reforms necessary for withdrawal. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal, and coal mining is expanding because 75% of it is exported. Of course all energy sources have their hidden environmental and health costs, even renewables. In an age of increasing energy hunger and increasing consequences on climate and environment, governments should be weighing up carefully the externalities for each and every energy source: coal, gas, unconventional gas, solar, solar-thermal, wind, geothermal, biomass, wave, etc. A health impact assessment should be part of any assessment for new mines and energy projects. We should understand the full economic, social and environmental consequences and health implications, both in the short and long term before deciding on any particular source of stationary or transport energy. Once the health and social costs of coal are accounted for, coal is no longer a cheap energy source. The damage arising from mining and burning coal doubles or triples the true cost of electricity generation.2 So who pays? We all do, with our current and future health. For more information, contact Doctors for the Environment Australia at: www.dea.org.au Dr Helen Redmond FAFRM (RACP) Doctors for the Environment Australia will send a poster Coal is a health hazard to 22,000 GPs across Australia tomorrow. References 1. MJA 2011; 195: 333-335\ 2. Ann NY Acad Sci 2011; 1219: 73-98

  • Four Degrees Report

    By Dimity Williams Dimity Williams attended the Four Degrees conference as a Doctors for the Environment Australia member (and CAHA member) and shares main messages here. The presentations are at http://www.fourdegrees2011.com.au/ "It was an excellent conference with international speakers updating attendees on the latest climate science and coincided with the release of the government's carbon tax package. The premise of the conference was to describe the 4 degree world our politicians are planning for and in so doing motivate us for mitigation. In this they certainly succeeded as the science is very grim. Key messages for me were:

    • Australia is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts
    • The current CO2 concentration is 392 ppm (pre-industrial 280); the current level of warming is one degree above pre-industrial levels
    • There is an enormous disconnect between the international agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees (450ppm) and the current policies which see us (with a fossil fuel intensive model) reaching 4 degrees warming by 2070 - and hence 8 degrees by 2300. No human life at this temperature.
    • We need to peak global emissions by 2020 to have a 2/3 chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees
    • Global damage is a highly non-linear function of global warming ie. once certain tipping points are crossed there is no way to reverse them and a cascade starts ie. the Greenland ice sheet loss may be triggered at 1.5-2.5 degrees
    • Preliminary evidence suggests that once global temperature is over 5 degrees it will rapidly accelerate above 10 degrees
    • This is the CRITICAL DECADE for action to avert dire climate change; a strong mitigation future is technologically and economically feasible but is it politically feasible?

    All speakers can now be heard on the conference website and I highly recommend you spend some time listening for yourself. See link: http://www.fourdegrees2011.com.au/ Excellent sessions were: Session 4- Australia at 4 degrees Excellent discussion of heat waves and El Nino impacts recently by CSIRO /BOM scientists Session 5- Australian Biodiversity impacts Australia has 7-10% of global biodiversity; we are the most vulnerable continent because we are flat and have nutrient poor soil. This means that species migration is especially great ie. with one degree warming, species need to move 100m altitudinally and 125km south; this is difficult as many of our rivers run east-west

    • Australia currently has the highest mammal extinction rate in the world. For every 1 degree of warming 100-500 species of bird will become extinct. Ecosystems can only withstand <0.1 degree temperature increase per decade (current rate 0.13deg C; 0.46 at higher latitudes)
    • In addition to mitigation, the answer here is to protect more land, restore some of what's lost and understand that landscape level management is more important than individual species ie. protect ecosystems

    Session 6- Australian Marine impacts

    • Oceans maintain climate by absorbing CO2, generating O2 through marine plants and absorbing heat. They also supply our food and generate income through tourism and food supply
    • Impacts due to climate change include warming, acidification and a reduction in oxygen content
    • The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) generates $6 billion/year and employs 63,000 people- second largest employer in QLD. GBR is the most biodiverse ecosystem in Australia and is especially vulnerable to global warming as we see mass coral bleaching and acidification of the ocean
    • 80% world's coral reefs are at risk of disappearance at 1.5 degrees warming
    • Coral reef safety threshold crossed at the latest at 336ppm in 1979
    • As the ocean has warmed, species have migrated south, today at 1 degree of warming marine organisms have moved 100km south and there is 50% less coral cover now than 50yrs ago
    • By 2030 we can expect annual mass coral bleaching- the reef does not always recover from this ie. most pacific reefs bleached in 1998 have not recovered.

    Session 9- Health impacts by Professor Tony Mc Michael The issue is not adaptation to 4 degrees of warming as this will not be possible- the need is to strengthen our resolve to mitigation

    • Australia's lack of action on climate change is causing thousands of deaths in the third world
    • Causal paths for health impacts are:

    1. Environmental health hazards, 'exposures'- extreme temperatures and extreme weather events; increased concentrations of air pollutants and aeroallergans 2. Loss of and change in environmental functions 'services' - lower food yields, reduced fresh water, change to natural constraints to infection, reduction in nature's buffers ie. forests and reefs, psychological effects Tony asked "What do economists eat?" We don't just catch fish to sell them as a commodity; we catch them as a food source to maintain our health. Session 15- Mitigation- Can we? An excellent solutions-focussed session. I especially enjoyed the presentation from Anna Skarbek from CLIMATEWORKS whose answer was clearly 'Yes we can! There was also an address by Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change and Ross Garnaut discussing the carbon tax package. Next steps I personally would prefer to attend a conference where we talk about limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees as 2 degrees sees us accepting the loss of entire countries (ie. Maldives, Pacific islands etc) and I wonder if the scientific community is allowing itself to have its parameters set by the political agenda? I would also like to see some research focus on mitigation rather than just the adaptation focus of the NCCARF and a place for science and health experts not just economists on key advisory groups like the Climate Change Authority."

  • So the carbon price means climate policy is sorted, right? Wrong...

    The announcement this week that agreement has been reached to pass the first significant piece of national climate policy has been a good news story for the government and generated a modest sense of victory among climate action advocates. But among all the relief, enthusiasm and general disbelief that the Australian parliament could actually agree on something so sensible as a committment to reducing emissions, it is useful to remind ourselves why we are doing this, what the end goal is, and where we are on the journey so far. The point of it all, after all, is to reduce emissions, not just arrest emissions growth - and presumably that would be one of the criteria in evaluating the effectiveness of the policy. Also that those emissions reductions are sustained over time, and ultimately lead to zero emissions - given that, according to the science, the Earth is already too hot, and we need to not only cut emissions to zero, we also need to draw down legacy emissions in the atmosphere if we wish to stabilise the climate. Ahh, the science, you sigh. The pesky scientists! When will they be happy?! Don't they know how difficult it is to negotiate a politically acceptable deal? Well, yes, but in the realm of physics and atmospheric chemistry, Abbott doesn't matter, Monkton doesn't matter, and Andrew Bolt doesn't matter “ atmospheric CO2 just continues to rise, the oceans more acidic and the ice sheets melt, regardless of how politically inconvenient it might be. And what do the scientists say? Well, Melbourne will have the opportunity to find out this week, with visiting climate experts Hans Schnellnhuber and Malte Meinhausen in town from the Potsdam Institute in Germany. The occasion is "Four Degrees', a conference hosted by Melbourne University, so named because that's the lower end of the anticipated rise in global average temperature by the end of this century if we continue on the business as usual path. A climate that is an average of four degrees hotter is completely unprecedented in human history, and if Schellnhuber's advice from 2009 is anything to go on “ humankind will be "toast" at that sort of rise. The Earth has not been four degrees warmer for the last ten million years, and humans were not around then to test their response to it.[i] But the predictions are that we won't go so well “ Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in the UK, believes only around 10 per cent of the planet's population “ around half a billion people “ will survive if global temperatures rise by 4C. Anderson was fairly frank back in 2009: "For humanity it's a matter of life or death," he said. "We will not make all human beings extinct as a few people with the right sort of resources may put themselves in the right parts of the world and survive. But I think it's extremely unlikely that we wouldn't have mass death at 4C. If you have got a population of nine billion by 2050 and you hit 4C, 5C or 6C, you might have half a billion people surviving."[ii] Meinhausen and others have calculated what volume of greenhouse gas emissions we can pump into the atmosphere between now and 2050 to have a reasonable chance of keeping warming lower than 2°C (above pre-industrial levels). We can only emit 1000 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) between the years 2000 and 2050. Trouble is, we've emitted a third of that in just nine years.[iii] If we were to share the total remaining carbon budget equally throughout the world on a per capita basis, Australia would exhaust its budget (as one of the highest per capita emitters in the world) in just seven years. Our commitment in Australia remains (for now) a 5% reduction in 2020, and 80% by 2050. But the science says, if we were to deal with this in an equitable manner, we need to get to zero in less than a decade. Just to give some perspective. So while the carbon price package is welcome, and quite possibly is the best we could get in the current political environment. But let's not kid ourselves that it is bold, generous, or responsive to the science. And whose fault is that? Well, that's just the problem, Australians are all too ready to point the finger elsewhere (at the government, at business, or anywhere - else) and say "they" failed; "they" should have done something else; "they" should have shown some leadership. All that might be true, but parliamentarians will only respond when their constituents demand something of them, and so far, most people in Australia are content to bury their heads in the sand, and pretend it's not happening, or simply distract themselves by wishing the growth economy back to health, as if continuous economic growth was possible on the back of the loss of natural capital, in the middle of a mass extinction event, when we have gone well into ecological overshoot and are playing pretend that if we use up natural resources faster than they can be replaced that some magical process will make it all right in the end. At its core, climate change is a health issue. Around 300,000 people are dying each year from climate change.[iv] Around five million more will die in the coming decade if we fail to act effectively.[v] The bulk of the climate health burden (over 80%) falls on children “ that's right, children, who are powerless to make decisions to increase those emissions that are destroying their health and their future; powerless to say "stop, we choose a different future".[vi] Children, for whom the health burden is not temporary, but for whom early exposure to disease leaves them with lifelong vulnerabilities. Who face higher exposure to pollution per unit of body weight. Who by virtue of having more future years of life face greater threats over a longer period that the rest of us. Who will advocate for them? Despite the declaration in The Lancet in 2009 that "climate change is the biggest threat to global public health of the 21st century", health professionals have so far failed to respond in ways that are proportionate to risk. Public health experts describe a wearied tolerance from other health colleagues when they hold forth on climate change “ as though it were some sort of personal hobby horse whereas others in different parts of the sector are "busy saving lives" and "don't have time for this sort of indulgence". Well, that's regrettable because climate change will eclipse all other threats to health in the coming decades if we don't turn our attention to finding solutions to the biggest threat there is. We must of course continue to act on existing disease burdens, as many will be (are being) exacerbated by climate change. But this threat is global, it's enormous, and until the world seriously turns its attention to dealing with it, climate change will bring unprecedented and dramatic negative impacts on human health. The good news of course is that there is good news. Many strategies to reduce emissions will also bring health gains. This should be also a major source of attention for health professionals “ and a focus of their advocacy for action on climate. Because advocating for action on climate change is possibly the biggest contribution health professionals can make to global public health. The health message is one that, despite the best efforts of some, remains missing from the climate policy story. But the evidence suggests that, when framed as a health issue, climate change is more likely to be perceived in an individual context, and people are more likely to support action for mitigation. We've seen a little bit of political leadership on the issue this week. But we mustn't imagine that's enough. The job is much, much bigger than that, and the voice of all health professionals, as respected leaders in society, would be very welcome in keeping this trajectory on track, to denounce those who misrepresent the science, and to call for action as civil society leaders to send the clear message to the rest of the community, from people who have no vested interest, that climate action is urgent, and ultimately, it's good for health. ">[i] Morton, A. Four degrees of separation, The Age, 9 July 2011. Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/four-degrees-of-separation-20110708-1h6yi.html#ixzz1Ri3kgqmC; ">[ii] http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/Warming-will-39wipe-out-billions39.5867379.jpg; ">[iii] Meinshausen, M. et al. Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, Nature, 30 April 2009; ">[iv] Vidal, J. Global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year, guardian.co.uk, 29 May 2009; ">[v] DARA, Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2010: The state of the climate crisis, December 2010; ">[vi] Sheffield, P. and Landrigan, P. Global Climate Change and Children's Health: Threats and Strategies for Prevention, Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 119 | Number 3 | March 2011. Croakey This article first appeared on 11 July 2011 on the online blog Croakey, the Crikey health blog.

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