Since we started our climate emergency campaign, 7 medical colleges along with the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand have declared a climate emergency.
We are now amidst 2 health emergencies requiring our attention. As our Covid curves flatten, and government starts planning for our economic recovery, it is important that health remains a central consideration in any stimulus package.
Australia had a number of measures in place in preparation for this pandemic including the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) as a coordinating body and prior reviews of influenza pandemic planning.
But with regards to climate change, the 2008 Garnaut report remains the federal government’s only national assessment of climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. It focused largely on economic consequences. There remains no national climate and health plan nor has there been any engagement on health and climate change from the federal government over the last 10 years as reported by the MJA-Lancet Countdown report.
On this existential health threat we remain completely under-prepared and our current emissions trajectory sees us far away from the required flattening of this critical curve.
We require a national climate and health strategy to prepare for climate change impacts. We need a mitigation strategy and decarbonisation at rates aligned to science.
Adherence to the science has seen us to date, avoid some frightening consequences from this pandemic that have seriously impacted other developed countries; it needs also to inform us in relation to climate action and as health advocates we should all be demanding this from government.
As talk turns to recovery, human health needs to remain central that we may recover from one deadly health crisis through a trajectory that prevents another deadly one from occurring.
Our economic recovery should be paired with climate action, reducing air pollution, providing infrastructure for cycling and walking and greening our cities that promote human health.
It mustn’t be simply a return to business-as-usual but rather to a vision of what we want our future to be; actions which are life-enhancing and curative of the disease caused by the damage to our life-sustaining ecological systems.
The fundamentals of human health are dependent on a healthy environment. Climate change and biodiversity loss are but two challenges confronting us as we continue to overstep boundaries that determine planetary health.
Lest we forget, the Angry Summer of 2020 made possible with our ongoing warming trend, saw drought and bushfires that claimed lives, engulfed our cities with smoke and claimed huge swathes of our bushlands.
It is important that our profession continues advocacy on climate action through this pandemic. We need to go beyond position statements and declarations. I would urge all of you to continue to engage with your college and the AMA at both state and federal levels and call on them to act to prevent a future health crisis.
Time is critical and the current fall in global emissions from the economic slowdown will not persist without low carbon development policies and strategies.
Please encourage other colleagues to sign our climate emergency petition.
If you haven’t already, please consider joining Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) and connect with like-minded colleagues.
Please take the time to watch this 2 minute video from DEA members: Frontline doctors speak out on COVID-19 and Climate Change
Please support our annual appeal.
Collectively we have shown in this pandemic that as a profession, we can make a difference. It is now time to also turn our collective attention on another health emergency and as resolutely, demand action based on science.
Doctors for the Environment Australia