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03 Sep 2019

The AMA has formally recognised climate change as a health emergency and has called on the Federal Government to take specific and urgent steps to address it.

Those steps include transitioning away from fossil fuels, adopting mitigation targets within a carbon budget, developing a national strategy for heath and climate change, and establishing a unit to reduce carbon emissions in the healthcare sector.

The AMA Federal Council passed a climate change motion at its last meeting and has now joined other health organisations around the world in recognising the potential health crisis.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the British Medical Association, the World Health Organisation, and Doctors for the Environment Australia have all recognised climate change as a health emergency.

The AMA Federal Council declared that climate change is real and will have the earliest and most severe health consequences on vulnerable populations around the world, including in Australia and the Pacific region.

The Federal Council Motion reads: 

The Federal Council recognises climate change as a health emergency, with clear scientific evidence indicating severe impacts for our patients and communities now and into the future. The AMA commits to working with government agencies and other organisations to prioritise actions in line with the AMA’s 2015 Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health.

The American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians recognised climate change as a health emergency in June this year, with the British Medical Association declaring a climate emergency in July.

The WHO recognised climate change as the “grestest threat to global health in the 21st century” in 2015.

The AMA has associated health threats with climate change since 2004, but now formally declares it a health emergency.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said the evidence is in on climate change and it 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.”

The AMA is calling on the Australian Government to: 

  • Adopt mitigation targets within an Australian carbon budget.
  • Promote the health benefits of addressing climate change.
  • Develop a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change.
  • Promote an active transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
  • Establish a National Sustainable Development Unit to reduce carbon emissions in the healthcare sector.

In April this year, a group of Australian health and medical associations, including Doctors for the Environment, the Climate and Health Alliance, the Royal Australian College of Physicians, and the Australian Medical Students’ Association wrote an open letter to all political parties emphasising the “significant and profound impacts climate change has on the health of people and our health system”.

The AMA Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health is at



Published: 03 Sep 2019