Climate Change and Environment
Climate change on health agenda
Australia will get its first climate change and health strategy if Labor wins government.
The World Health Organization calls climate change one of the greatest health risks of the 21st century.
Not only do rising temperatures and more extreme weather events cost lives directly. They also increase transmission of infectious diseases and “undermine the environmental determinants of health, including clean air and water, and sufficient food,” the WHO says.
In response to this and similar warnings, Labor will develop Australia’s first National Strategy on Climate Change and Health if it wins the coming federal election.
Labor health spokesperson Catherine King says the federal government must take the lead on protecting public health from the impacts of climate change.
Ms King says Australians are already experiencing the health impacts of climate change.
“Australia’s health experts have estimated that heatwaves in Victoria in 2009 and 2014 contributed to 374 and 167 extra deaths respectively,” she says.
“Climate change is increasing the likelihood of events such as the 2016 thunderstorm asthma event in Victoria, which caused a 3000 per cent increase in asthma-related admissions to intensive care.
“Reduced productivity due to extreme heat already costs the Australian economy over $8 billion annually and the economic losses and health risks will increase significantly as climate change impacts worsen.”
She says Labor will work with groups like the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Doctors for the Environment and the Climate and Health Alliance – a coalition of more than 30 health and medical organisations – to develop and implement the strategy.
“In contrast, the Liberals still can’t agree that climate change is real, while their record on health is one of cuts, soaring costs for patients and neglect of our health system.”