Do you think more needs to be done to prevent the health impacts of climate change?
International scientific consensus is that Earth’s climate is warming, primarily due to human activities, and experts are warning that this will increasingly lead to impacts on population health.
According to NASA, 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.
Meanwhile the climate has shown rapid warming in the past few decades.
Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting and precipitation patterns are changing. Extreme weather events are becoming more intense and frequent, explains the World Health Organization (WHO).
It is predicted that climate change effects will lead to increases in physical injury; heat-related illness; nutritional disorders; infectious diseases; mental health issues; cardiorespiratory illnesses; skin cancer; food security; water security; and vector-borne diseases.
The Climate Council argues that the catastrophic, unprecedented fire conditions in Australia have been aggravated by climate change.
“Bushfire risk was exacerbated by record breaking drought, very dry fuels and soils, and record-breaking heat,” the council explains.
Recent bushfires have not only directly impacted lives, but also led to poor air quality across several Australian states and territories, with many people especially those with chronic health conditions affected.
So far at least two deaths have been directly linked to the recent bushfire smoke: 19-year-old Courtney Partridge-McLennan from Glenn Innes, NSW died in November 2019 of an asthma attack triggered by the bushfire smoke, and in early January an elderly woman disembarked from a plane in Canberra, experienced respiratory distress and died.
Emergency callouts for breathing difficulties have skyrocketed as cities have been blanketed in smoke haze.
PSA national president Chris Freeman says there is clear evidence of the impact of climate change across Australia.
“There is no doubt that there will be an increasing detrimental impact on population and individual health,” Associate Professor Chris Freeman told AJP.
“It is incumbent on all of us, as individuals, communities, and on governments to meaningfully address the impact of climate change, and from the PSA’s point of view, to minimise the impact that this has on human health.
“The role of pharmacists will only become more important, as climate change has an impact on the environment, with it coming an increase in the risk of natural disasters.”
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has also joined with other health organisations around the world – including the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association – in recognising climate change as a health emergency.
AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said that the evidence is on climate change is “irrefutable”.
“The AMA accepts the scientific evidence on climate change and its impact on human health and human wellbeing,” Dr Bartone said.
“The scientific reality is that climate change affects health and wellbeing by increasing the situations in which infectious diseases can be transmitted, and through more extreme weather events, particularly heatwaves.
“Climate change will cause higher mortality and morbidity from heat stress.
“Climate change will cause injury and mortality from increasingly severe weather events.
“Climate change will cause increases in the transmission of vector-borne diseases.
“Climate change will cause food insecurity resulting from declines in agricultural outputs.
“Climate change will cause a higher incidence of mental ill-health.
“These effects are already being observed internationally and in Australia. There is no doubt that climate change is a health emergency.
“The AMA is proud to join the international and local chorus of voices urging action to address climate change on health grounds,” Dr Bartone said.
The AMA is calling for on the Australian Government to adopt mitigation targets within an Australian carbon budget, promote the health benefits of addressing climate change, and promote an active transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
However some politicians have recently argued that there is no link between the bushfires and climate change.
On Monday, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson rejected suggestions that climate change has contributed to the scale of Australia’s unprecedented bushfire season.
“Throw bloody climate change out the window and let’s look at the pure facts of why we have had the bushfires, how they were handled, what we can do better to stop it happening again,” Ms Hanson told Today.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly recently told UK television there was no link between climate change and Australia’s bushfire crisis.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on Sunday about doing “better and better and better” at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to “evolve our policy” over time, while also promising to adapt more to a changing climate.
However he did not outline any substantive change in policy and his office made it clear that he was not signalling a more ambitious target for 2030, the deadline for the government’s 26-28% cut to emissions.
Do you believe that more needs to be done to prevent the health impacts of climate change?