Climate Change and Environment
Australia needs a better national health plan for climate change
At the national level, there is an unwillingness to speak about the damage climate change is doing to Australians’ health.
Currently, what the World Health Organization calls one of the world’s greatest health risks doesn’t rate a mention in Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan, nor in the Department of Health’s Corporate Plan.
The department’s $5 billion investment plan for the Medical Research Future Fund describes 20 funding initiatives for the next decade and identifies “areas of national priority”. But it doesn’t once mention climate change.
Yet the five hottest years on record have occurred since 2015, according to The Lancet. Australia is predicted to have harsher heatwaves and more severe storms. Cyclones in the far north will be more intense, causing floods.
The Grattan Institute has released a report that argues that the health sector must adapt to the reality of a warming Australia.
“The coronavirus pandemic provides a model. Australia’s response to COVID-19 was led by a national cabinet and informed by the national and state chief medical and health officers,” the report’s authors, Stephen Duckett and Will Mackey, wrote in The Conversation.
“Our political leaders listened to the science presented by these expert advisers. They used this evidence and advice to make unprecedented decisions in unprecedented times to protect the lives and livelihoods of millions of Australians.
“They must do the same with climate change.”
The report recommends:
- establishing a national climate change and health forum
- clearly communicating climate change health risks to the public
- improving mental health support systems
- reviewing health service resilience to climate disasters.