Posts Tagged ‘risk’

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.