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28 Nov 2015

The AMA is joining with international medical associations in calling on world leaders to make the health effects of climate change a priority in discussions at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, which commences on Monday 30 November.

The World Medical Association (WMA) this week called for “a sustainable global agreement on climate change with a strong emphasis on the protection and improvement of health”.

AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, today urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian delegation to the Paris Conference to show leadership in addressing the serious threats that climate change poses to human health.

“Climate change is a significant worldwide threat to human health that requires urgent action,” Professor Owler said.

“Failure to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on a global basis is likely to result in significant public health concerns.

“The health effects of climate change include increased heat-related illness and deaths, increased food- and water-borne diseases, and changing patterns of diseases.

“In addition to their impact on health infrastructure and services, extreme events such as droughts, flooding, and bushfires could be responsible for death and disease.

“The AMA recognises that human activity has contributed to climate change. 

“While the Paris talks will be about carbon emissions and targets and helping developing countries, equal emphasis must be directed to equipping the health systems of the world to cope with the extra health burden created by climate change.

“Plans to deal with that burden should be put in place immediately, and the Paris Conference is the perfect place to implement the strategies.

“Climate change will dramatically alter the patterns and rate of spread of diseases, rainfall distribution, availability of drinking water, and drought.

“There are predictions of longer-term effects such as rises in sea levels, increases in sea surface temperature, coastal erosion, and contamination of estuaries.

“International research shows that the incidence of conditions such as malaria, diarrhoea, and cardio-respiratory problems is likely to rise.

“All these events will affect the health of Australians and the health of the people in other countries in our region.

“As a wealthy developed nation, Australia must show leadership in responding to climate change and its impact on human health.

“The Paris Conference must achieve its objective of a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all nations of the world, and there must also be international agreement to act to address the effects of climate change on human health,” Professor Owler said.

The AMA recently released its revised Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health (Revised 2015).  The Position Statement states that:

  • Australia should adopt mitigation targets within an Australian carbon budget that represents Australia’s fair share of global greenhouse gas emissions, under the principle of common but differential responsibilities.
  • Renewable energy presents relative benefits compared to fossil fuels with regard to air pollution and health. Therefore, active transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources should be considered.
  • Decarbonisation of the economy can potentially result in unemployment and subsequent adverse health impacts. The transition of workers displaced from carbon intensive industries must be effectively managed.
  • Regional and national collaboration across all sectors, including a comprehensive and broad-reaching adaptation plan is necessary to reduce the health impacts of climate change. This requires a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change.
  • There should be greater education and awareness of the health impacts of climate change, and the public health benefits of mitigation and adaptation.
  • Climate policies can have public health benefits beyond their intended impact on the climate. These health benefits should be promoted as a public health opportunity, with significant potential to offset some costs associated with addressing climate change.

The AMA Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health (Revised 2015) is available at https://ama.com.au/position-statement/ama-position-statement-climate-change-and-human-health-2004-revised-2015 

The WMA Climate Change statement from 25 November 2015 is at http://www.wma.net/en/40news/20archives/2015/2015_42/index.html

Watch AMA Vice President, Dr Stephen Parnis, call on the Australian Government to show leadership on climate change and health here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEpp1cKkjhs


28 November 2015

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Published: 28 Nov 2015