Pages tagged "Health professionals"

  • 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:


    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

    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, 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 Grace has been on the Victorian Organising Committee engaging the health sector in the People's Climate Marches.

  • Climate change: a great threat to health, but not as generally conceived

    by Professor Colin Butler via Croakey Prior to the 2009 Copenhagen climate change conference the Lancet published a 41 page article called "Managing the health effects of climate change". The text postulated that "climate change is potentially the biggest global health threat in the 21st century" but the executive summary was unambiguous: "Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century". Later this month, in the lead up to the Paris climate change summit, the Lancet is to again publish a major report on climate change and health. I had no role in either, though I edited a recent book on the subject. A WHO-led study found that in 2000 the burden of disease (BOD) of climate change caused about 5.5 million lost disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), mainly due to climate change-related undernutrition, with minor contributions from infectious diseases. This sounds significant, but was less than 0.4% of the global BOD in 2000.

    In contrast, HIV/AIDS, the leading cause of lost DALYs in the "baseline" scenario for 2030, contributes about 12% of the total “ or about 30 times as much as climate change in 2000. Climate change is a risk factor, not a disease, so it is likely to cause an increased BOD for several health conditions. However, each of those conditions (such as undernutrition) has several causes; attributing the fraction that climate change is responsible for is bound to be disputed. Tobacco smoke, closely followed by childhood underweight, was found to be the leading risk factors in an updated BOD study published in 2013, each causing about 8% of the total burden, or about 20 times as much as that of climate change in 2000. The claim that climate change will emerge as the greatest threat to global health this century is striking and surely calls for strong evidence, if to be taken seriously. But though some health workers do take it literally, my contention is that most don't. Outside health, even fewer do. I suggest several explanations.

    The first may lie with the Lancet paper itself. It is vague, repetitive, and in part overstated. At one point it comments "a 13-m rise [in sea level] would cause the flooding and permanent abandonment of almost all low-lying coastal and river urban areas. Currently, a third of the world's population lives within 60 miles of a shoreline and 13 of the world's 20 largest cities are located on a coast. More than a billion people could be displaced in environmental mass migration." That sounds plausible, except that neither the IPCC nor any other authority suggests any such extent of sea level rise is likely this century. Few if any peer reviewed articles suggest more than 2 metres of sea level rise this century is plausible. A perception of exaggeration may reduce the impact of this paper, contrary to the authors' intention.

    The Lancet paper identifies six main health effects from climate change: (1) changing patterns of disease and morbidity, (2) food, (3) water and sanitation, (4) shelter and human settlements, (5) extreme events, and (6) population and migration. However, no attempt is made to rigorously quantify the health effects for any of these. I can understand why, but this risks creating a perception of "hand waving". Another reason for the comparative lack of impact of this paper is that although its authors are consciously inter-disciplinary, the consensus in many other disciplines is far more conservative. This is exemplified by the issue of conflict. The possibility that climate change may contribute to violent climate was first raised in the health literature in 1989 (in a Lancet editorial), but has rarely surfaced since. A recent paper, by 26 leading gatekeepers to the political science literature confirmed the resistance of this discipline to this idea, although, outside political science, the idea is gaining more currency. The 2009 Lancet paper also reviews the literature at that time concerning food security and climate change. While not quantifying the risk, the message is consistently more downbeat than that of the IPCC reports, though the 2013 IPCC food chapter is less optimistic than its predecessors.

    If disciplinary specialists do not share the anxiety of the Lancet authors then why should generalists? There is another reason that neither health workers nor the wider community takes the Lancet paper's claim seriously: general incredulity. Conceding that our species is capable of critically undermining the environmental and social determinants that make civilisation possible appears to stretch our species' collective cognitive capacity. While many scientists (such as Will Steffen in this excellent recent lecture) and an increasing number of lay and business people (including Elon Musk) do understand this “ and are rightly apprehensive, about "business as usual" the understanding that most of the world's population has of climate science seems not much better than of evolution a century ago. Adding to this difficulty, of course, are powerful vested interests that deliberately confuse and cloud public understanding and, to an extent, inherent scientific conservatism.

    The final explanation I'd like to raise here is of causal attribution, also related to cognitive biases. The late Professor Tony McMichael coined the term "prisoners of the proximate" to encourage his epidemiological colleagues to think more deeply about cause. Of course, McMichael was not the first to do this; causal theory is as old as philosophy. However, despite this vintage, many people, including scientists, get stuck with their preconceptions, and many have trouble conceding not only that there may be additional causal factors, but that these may co-exist with, rather than supplant their current causal preference. This tension is obvious concerning conflict.

    Military theorists are happy to conceive climate change as a "risk multiplier" for conflict, but not (yet) political scientists. Climate change can indeed be conceptualised as the most important risk to health this century, but it is only one element in a risky milieu. Lowering the risk from climate change requires reducing the risk of many of its co-determinants of civilisation health. Among these, the most important factor may be complacency. Source:

    image source: WWF 

  • Electronic networking does work!

    A report from the ˜Environmentally sustainable practice in hospitals and community settings' seminar 15 May 2015

    Janet Roden, Professional Officer in the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWN&MA), and Peter Sainsbury, Director of Population Health in South Western Sydney Local Health District, met in 2014 on a Global Green and Healthy Hospitals webinar organised by CAHA Convenor Fiona Armstrong. Out of that meeting the two of them organised an ˜Environmental Health Seminar' attended by 50 health professionals at Liverpool Hospital on 15 May 2015 “ a first in NSW for collaboration between a local health district and the NSWN&MA on environmental sustainability.

    The focus of the seminar was on environmentally sustainable practices in hospital and community settings and the 50 health professionals present heard a tremendous array of knowledgeable speakers, all of who have runs on the board promoting environmental sustainability in their own workplaces. Debbie Wilson, Sustainability Officer with the Counties Manukau District Health Board in New Zealand, focused in her keynote speech on outlining the activities of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network and the environmental initiatives they have introduced in Manukau.

    In the afternoon, Debbie talked about the identification and management of toxic chemicals in health services. Other speakers included Chris Hill talking about the initiatives taken to promote environmental sustainability at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane; Terrona Ramsay and Aileen Thomas describing the very innovative approaches adopted to make the small regional health service at Kooweerup in Victoria greener; Michelle Skrivanic and Alison Brannelly talking about the initiatives nurses can take in large hospitals, for instance reducing and separating waste in operating theatres; and Matt Power from St Vincent's Health Australia describing how health services can improve energy efficiency.

    And somewhere amongst all that we found time for lots discussion with the audience, much of it focussing on the practicalities of (and problems associated with) encouraging health services to become more environmentally sustainable. All in all, a very practical and enjoyable day ¦ and all because of professional speed dating. Click on the links below for podcast recordings of the presentations:

  • 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.


    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.


    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

  • Greening the Healthcare Sector Think Tank 14th Oct 2014

    Hosted by Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) in partnership with Global Green and Healthy Hospitals


    Event Title: ˜The Health Sector as a Leader in Low Carbon Transformation' When: Tuesday 14th October 2014 Where: Mater Hospital, South Brisbane Featuring case studies and experts on the following themes:

    • Building healthy and sustainable healthcare infrastructure
    • Waste not “ the transformation of disposal in healthcare
    • Engaging others “ making sustainability everyone's business
    • Building a national and global community for healthy, sustainable healthcare

    Opportunities to improve environmental sustainability in the healthcare sector are rapidly expanding. There are increasingly substantive economic drivers supporting a growing cohort of health and sustainability professionals in implementing strategies in their organisations for cutting carbon, reducing waste, minimising chemicals, and greening the supply chain. The Greening the Healthcare Sector Think Tank provides an opportunity for those working in the sector to hear first hand case studies of change, talk to experts, hear about opportunities for collaboration, and contribute to a discussion about how we can work together to accelerate progress within the health sector towards sustainable healthcare and hospital practices. This Think Tank will allow participants to hear from industry leaders and professionals and engage in discussions about strategies to improve environmental sustainability and population health while reducing pressure on health sector budgets. Building green healthcare facilities, engaging staff for institution-wide change, reducing waste and saving money will be some of the topics covered in this dynamic and interactive event.

    The Think Tank will be facilitated by leading sustainability educator and consultant Ian McBurney, and will feature snap shot presentations from professionals, followed by engaging and interactive discussions.

    Beamed in live from Washington state will be Nick Thorp, Global Community Manager of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals network. Hear about this rapidly expanding network and the innovative platform that is enabling health and sustainability professionals to connect with one another around the world. If you are looking for tools and resources to support sustainability initiatives and want to know how to succeed through collaboration with others “ look no further! Download the program here. Register now! Click on this link to register.  

  • How to make your conference carbon neutral (or even carbon negative)

    Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) take some real climate action Henry West Embedded image permalink For many years the World Health Organisations (WHO) have made it clear that the health care sector should lead by example in terms of reducing climate change pollutants and by demonstrating how climate change mitigation can yield tangible, immediate health benefits. At the recent Australian Medical Student Association (AMSA) Global Health Conference (GHC) in Hobart the challenge this viewpoint presents to us was taken up with vigor. For the first time ever an AMSA event was completely carbon neutral and actually carbon negative. This was no minor undertaking, as the conference was very well attended with over 500 people present; nearly 200 tonnes of CO2 were offset. This was achieved via two internationally recognised projects coordinated by Climate Friendly, a large Australian carbon-offsetting firm. One of the projects in particular had immediate health benefits and was of particular satisfaction to the GHC organising committee. This project was a Cambodian one that actively replaces highly polluting indoor wood/charcoal fired cooking stoves with new far more efficient and clean ones, the New Lao Stove (NLS). The NLS was developed by GERES, an NGO ?that has been operating in the region for many years. More efficient than traditional stove models, the NLS uses 20-30% less fuel-wood and charcoal, thereby reducing CO2 emissions from cooking. This has immediate and dramatic health impacts for whole families, mostly regarding respiratory health, in conjunction with the large CO2 mitigation. For AMSA to be taking positive action in this way, by providing budgetary means for events to be offset and also personnel to ensure that reductions in impacts are made in the first place is a testament to their commitment to both global health and also playing their part in addressing the climate emergency we are facing. I encourage all to consider the impact of their own events in the health care sector, whether it is in management or simple attendance. Cleaning up our own backyard allows us to encourage and assist others to do the same. When we are in the business of health care contributing to what will likely be the greatest health threat of the 21st century is not acceptable. Embedded image permalink Henry West was the Environmental Officer for the AMSA 2013 GHC and is the 2013 Student Representative for Doctors for the Environment Australia in Tasmania. He is a student at UTAS.
  • 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.
  • Climate and health at Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival 2013

    Climate and health at the Sustainable Living Festival 2013

    The Climate and Health Alliance hosted three very successful events at this year's Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne - a Climate and Health Clinic; The Heat is On - a forum on climate change, health and extreme heat; and Our Uncashed Dividend - a session on the health benefits of climate action. Professor David Karoly, Fiona Armstrong, Dr Liz Hanna and Dr Tony Bartone. By shotbykatie. A full report, more photos and a blog featuring some of our marvellous volunteers coming soon!