Pages tagged "sustainability"

  • Lives increasingly at risk from ˜angry climate'

    Australian's lives are increasingly at risk from extreme weather being driven by climate change, the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) has warned. CAHA has responded to a new report from the Climate Commission, The Angry Summer, which shows the recent summer was the hottest ever, during which Australia recorded its first ever average maximum of 40.30°C, on 7 January 2013. Heatwaves pose the most serious threat to health, but lives were also lost in recent bushfires and flooding following extreme rainfall. The report shows the world is moving into a ˜new climate', the consequences for which could be devastating for all people everywhere and for the natural systems on which we rely. Read more here.

  • 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!    

  • 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.
  • Book your tickets to Melbourne!

    The Climate and Health Alliance is involved in THREE events at the 2013 Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival:

    Climate and Health Clinic - all weekend Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th February

    Roving ˜health promoters' will help people develop their own individualised ˜prescriptions for a healthy life and a health planet'. The clinic and ˜prescriptions' provide opportunities for people to learn about sustainable lifestyles are healthy lifestyles and how cutting emissions can improve health. Some strategies people can choose for their own prescription include: walking, cycling or using public transport; switching to clean renewable energy e.g. installing solar panels; adopting a plant based diet; or spending time with nature e.g. bushwalking, or getting involved in community gardening or tree planting projects. To volunteer, contact Volunteer Coordinator Bronwyn Wauchope [email protected] or Fiona Armstrong [email protected].  

    The Heat is On “ Climate change, extreme heat and human health “ a panel discussion: 3PM-4PM Sat 16th Feb in The Greenhouse @ Birrarung Marr

    Featuring CAHA President Dr Liz Hanna; CAHA scientific advisor Professor David Karoly; and Victorian AMA Vice President Dr Tony Bartone on the impact of climate change on extreme weather including heatwaves; how heatwaves affect people's health; and what we can do about it.  

    Our Uncashed Dividend - 11am-12pm Sunday 17th Feb in Under the Gum talk tent

    Come and hear the good news about climate action “ how strategies to reduce emissions can improve your own and the community's health, not to mention save money. Our transition to low-carbon living provides the opportunity to create healthier, happier communities and could save billions of dollars for health budgets by avoiding much ill health and lost productivity. The report Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Action, produced by the Climate and Health Alliance and The Climate Institute, spells out the evidence. Come and hear from report author Fiona Armstrong and contributor Corey Watts about our nation's ˜Uncashed Dividend'.    

  • Protecting children from climate change

    The Climate and Health Alliance is particularly concerned about the health and well-being of children in relation to climate change. Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and suffer around 90% of the disease burden from climate change. As part of its advocacy efforts, along with child health researchers and child advocates the Climate and Health Alliance has written a letter to child advocates and research institutions, asking that they include climate change as an urgent priority area for child advocacy, research, policy and practice. The letter, co-signed by leading children and health researchers and advocates, sent to all Children's Commissioners, child health research centres and advocacy groups in October 2012, states: "We are only beginning to understand the impacts that climate change will have on children's development, health and mental health. In addition to a greater emphasis on mitigation, more research at the regional and local levels is desperately needed so that we can adequately understand, prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Because climate change poses such a significant threat to our children and future generations we believe that child advocate and research institutions have a responsibility to have it as a priority area for advocacy, research, policy and practice. We have attached a list of ideas for inclusion in a research, policy and practice agenda. We also believe that, in order to reduce harm to children and future generations, child advocate and research institutions should have a policy to reduce their organisation's carbon footprint (e.g., by switching to Green power, purchasing carbon offsets for air travel, and monitoring the carbon footprint of suppliers). As concerned scientists and child advocates we should also publicly call for effective climate change mitigation strategies at the local, national and international levels to help limit the threat to the development, health and mental health of our children and future generations. Strategies to reduce emissions would have the added public health benefit of decreasing the incidence and severity of many chronic and avoidable diseases associated with our high-carbon lifestyle." The full text of the letter can be found here. Responses received by January 2013:  
  • DOHA Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing

    The international health and medical community have developed a joint statement on climate health and wellbeing calling for health to be central to climate action during the COP18 international climate change negotiations in Doha, Qatar. Signatories to the Doha Declaration for Climate, Health and Wellbeing include the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, International Federation of Medical Students, Health Care Without Harm, European Public Health Association, Royal College of General Practitioners (UK), Climate and Health Council, OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council, NHS Sustainable Development Unit, UmeÃ¥ Center for Global Health Research, Climate and Health Alliance, Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, Doctors Reform Society, Australian Association of Social Workers, and the Australian Medical Students Association and many others. The Doha Declaration calls for health to be central to climate action, and highlights the opportunities to improve health through emissions reductions - pointing out that reducing fossil fuel consumption and moving to low carbon energy systems can deliver many benefits to health worldwide. "The impact of climate change on health is one of the most significant measures of harm associated with our warming planet," the Declaration says. "Protecting health is therefore one of the most important motivations for climate action." This effort builds on the collaboration at the 2011 global climate and health summit among the health and medical community in advocate for climate action. The Doha Declaration outlines why health experts are extremely worried about the slow progress at the international climate negotiations, and highlights how the health co-benefits of emissions can build support for ambitious climate action. This joint statement from the global health community reiterates policy demands from the 2011 Durban Declaration and Global Call to Action urging countries to consider the health implications of climate change as well as the health benefits of climate action “ which can provide savings that either largely or completely offset the costs of mitigation and adaptation. This statement will be used in discussion with policy makers in Doha, but also serves as roadmap of future action. See the CAHA media release here. If you want to support this statement, sign up here: www.dohadeclaration.weebly.com

  • The project known as now

    An exciting project is evolving... The Climate and Health Alliance recently had the opportunity to crowdsource ideas for a new publication in the New News Incubator at the Melbourne Writers' Festival event. Guided by Daniel May, Fiona Armstrong, Paul Ramadge, and Bronwen Clune, this workshop worked to develop an idea to create a new online publication in the area of climate and health “ from scratch! Participants helped build the publication's identity, sketch out a community development strategy, a business case and a story list. The workshop was moderated by the incomparable health journalist and Croakey blogger Melissa Sweet. It has evolved into an proposal to create an online ˜hub' provisionally called now to showcase what healthy sustainable societies look like through sharing stories of existing low or zero carbon initiatives to help create an appealing narrative for positive change. now is proposed as an online ˜hub' to showcase what healthy sustainable societies look like by aggregating and documenting stories and images and case studies of existing low or zero carbon initiatives as a vehicle to help create an appealing narrative for positive change. Human health and wellbeing are dependent on sustainable environments. now uses health as a ˜hook' to build support for environmental sustainability and bio-sensitive societies. Stories and content will range from the micro to the macro “ i.e. what's possible in low carbon food production in Cindy's backyard all the way to stories about what's possible in terms of transforming our large scale industrial agricultural systems and infrastructure. now will function as a library as well as a ˜publication' with rich archival and background materials while presenting a dynamic and lively ever changing ˜face' with fresh content, and evocative images that will be equally appealing to consumers/community as it is to experts. A report on the MWF event is available here. A collaborating group is working together to further develop the idea. Watch out for further details!
  • Climate and health community pays tribute to Professor Tony McMichael

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

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

    This post was first published on Croakey as http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2012/10/06/more-mckeon-malarkey/ on 7th October 2012. In an email to CAHA he agreed to make public, Professor Tony McMichael provides another critique of the McKeon review's narrow approach to health and medical research. This McKeon Review ˜consultation paper' contains, for the wider social enterprise of public health research, a dismal but predictable set of recommendations. The name 'NHMRC' incorporates the words ˜Health and Medical', but the McKeon Review panel membership comprised ˜medical' rather than ˜health' persons ” eminent researchers in laboratory and clinical science ” along with a strong representation of the private for-profit business (including biotech) sector. Of course, it's easy to rail against this McKeon Review output and the restricted, orthodox, and somewhat closed-shop NHMRC mentality. However, the document also provides a sobering reminder of the fundamental problem that societies face today in their need to expand their concern, research effort, resources and policy to abating the big, and unprecedented, systemic threats to population health and survival from human-caused climate change and other extraordinary global environmental changes. These threats to health are of a kind not previously faced, and a broad and distinctive genre of research in relation to them is required. The committee members are very able people who, variously, have great intellectual, reputational and financial investments in the status quo; they are at the top of their professional pyramids; and they probably cannot imagine a different world in the near future with a radically different spectrum of health-risk issues. History has seen it all before. As prolonged droughts closed in on the Maya civilisation in the ninth century, contributing greatly to the weakening of the agricultural base (already stretched by a population that had expanded substantially), the rulers and opinion-leaders opted for ever larger edifices and grander ceremonies. They had, presumably, little understanding or interest in the increasingly precarious longer-term prospects of their society. Hay was to be made while the sun shined. It was business as usual, but always with a growing appetite for ever-more resources. Dubai today is following suit, in a region of the world where they have had to give up trying to grow their own grains, now that their once-only aquifer supplies have been depleted. Meanwhile, the sheikhs and financiers opt for world-tallest buildings and creating (and selling) artificial island ˜nations' in the Gulf that have been built to a mere couple of metres above the (rising) sea level. The McKeon Review perspective is of a kind with these assumptions of business-as-usual (in a stable world). It is not surprising that the Chief Executive of Medicines Australia, Brendan Shaw, has been quoted as saying this week: "We are encouraged by the McKeon Review's recognition of the importance of clinical research both as generator of economic benefit, but more importantly as a generator of health benefits for Australian patients, and the recognition of the important role the medicines industry plays in this.
  • Greening the health sector: think tank report

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