Posts Tagged ‘health’

It’s time for the health sector to step up on climate

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

This post first appears as part of this Croakey blog post on 22 October 2013

The legislation to repeal the carbon price is another reminder of the disconnect between science and policy in Australia. So much policy is driven by corporate interests, with the impacts on people’s health wellbeing often a secondary consideration. In this case, the impacts on people are being completely ignored, with the glaring horror of climate change writ large as the New South Wales bushfires destroy homes, livelihoods and biodiversity while the New South Wales Government rolls back climate research programs. The Federal Government contribution is to abolish the Climate Commission, dismantle the Climate Change Authority, and remove the only current national disincentive to greenhouse gas emissions.

Authors Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway write presciently in their recent paper: The Collapse of Western Civilisation: A view from the future on the emergence of the second ‘Dark Age’ in which “denial and self-deception, rooted in an ideological fixation on ‘free’ markets, disabled the world’s powerful nations in the face of tragedy”.

The new Federal Government is a strong example of this denial and self-deception and what others call “wilful ignorance”. Mr Abbott will have to live with the consequences of his actions, as will we, but most significantly, these actions serve to rob our children and future generations of the chance to avoid a wildly unstable climate and irrecoverably degraded ecosystems. The denial and self deception being engaged in by our political leaders, encouraged by the cheer squad of corporate vested interests, may well one day be seen as acts of criminality – since the decisions being taken so flagrantly disregard widely available scientific evidence of the consequences of doing so.

This is little comfort to those of us willing to take a clear eyed look at the future, and see an unfolding, but predicted, tragedy. The health sector and the community more broadly are ill prepared for what lies ahead. It is my hope however that the health and medical community will bring its voice more strongly to this debate both in Australia and internationally, as there are few health risks in our history, or in our future, that pose the profound risk to health and wellbeing that we now face from climate change.

Health groups seek urgent action on climate

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

With the federal election date looming, many Australians will be seriously considering their voting intentions and the issues that will shape them. So far the hot topics in the media have been the leader’s gaffes and characteristics of candidates, along with the state of the budget, asylum seekers and education.

But are these the issues voters and community leaders would prioritise given the chance?

One key issue that has so far escaped much attention is that of climate change, outside the narrow debate of shifting to a floating carbon price or, in the case of the Coalition, abolishing the emissions trading scheme altogether.

But while it may not be popular politically, and many in the media either misreport or avoid it, climate change is a key issue in the minds of the public and civil society.

Coal and csg rush clashes with health and climate obligations

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

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, the Energy 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.

Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Action

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Fiona is the author of the recently released paper: Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Action, jointly published by the Climate and Health Alliance and The Climate Institute as a joint report.

This report draws together a large and growing body of evidence from health and medical research showing substantial health benefits linked to measures to cut emissions.

It demonstrates that actions that cut greenhouse gas emissions can improve Australians’ health and could save billions of dollars for health care budgets and save thousands of lives each year.

 This report reflects the fact that it is becoming clear that many activities that cut emissions will also improve health and vice versa. While emissions reductions are also important strategies to act on climate change, the benefits for health are significant and available immediately, while the climate benefits accumulate in the longer term. The report is supported by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

Download the full report here.

Reducing carbon good for health and economy

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Don’t tell ‘em it’s good for ‘em or they’ll eat it by the boxful. While our politicians remain embroiled in a toxic battle over carbon laws, the health and productivity benefits of climate actions have been ignored. Yet research from around the world strongly suggests that billions of dollars and thousands of lives can be saved with actions that also just happen to cut the risk of climate change.

Consider, for starters, that air pollution in this country kills more people every year than the road toll. The annual health bill from our addiction to coal-fired power costs us $2.6 billion and $3.3 billion from trucks and cars.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison recently reviewed dozens of studies of the money saved by improvements in air quality. The average benefit was around A$46 for every tonne of carbon dioxide avoided. This makes Australia’s starting carbon price of $23 per tonne look a bargain.

Carbon price’s health bonanza

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

The birth of Australia’s carbon price legislation is predictably being heralded by the chorus of criticism that has accompanied its gestation, despite the early distribution of handouts as the government attempts to buy its way through the noise.

While the #cashforyou compensation might muffle some of the clamour, it certainly can’t be countered by the mysterious silence about what the carbon price is for and what it will do, other than line the pockets of Australians. The decision by the government to label the carbon price package the ”clean energy future” represents a pragmatic reading of the political mood, as well as the need for a positive ”frame” with which to ”sell” it, but there remains an ongoing failure to describe the point of the legislation – or what it can deliver.

There is however an untold story of good news associated with this, the beginnings of our national emissions reduction strategy, which has been completely overlooked in government communications and in other commentary – and that is the improvements in public health and economic savings that accompany emissions reductions. For while there will indeed be climate benefits, they are far off in the future and will only be realised by a considerable ramping up of emissions reductions, far beyond a 5 per cent by 2020 target or a $23/tonne carbon price. The health benefits however are available much sooner than that.