Leading Australian medical body declares climate change a health emergency
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Leading Australian medical body declares climate change a health emergency

Leading Australian medical body declares climate change a health emergency

Scott Morrison

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has described the current climate crisis as a “health emergency.” AMA President Dr. Tony Bartone said the association had agreed to make the declaration in its August Canberra meeting. 

“The AMA accepts the scientific evidence on climate change and its impact on human health and human wellbeing,” Bartone said in a September 3rd press statement.

“The scientific reality is that climate change affects health and wellbeing by increasing the situations in which infectious diseases can be transmitted, and through more extreme weather events, particularly heatwaves,” he added.

Climate emergency will have many negative outcomes if unchecked

The Association said the climate crisis will cause a higher number of deaths from heat stress; more injury and deaths related to severe weather events and an increase in the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases.

The AMA also added food insecurity will rise throughout the world as agricultural output declines due to climate change. It said the world can also expect a higher incidence of mental health problems as a result of the crisis.

“These effects are already being observed internationally and in Australia. There is no doubt that climate change is a health emergency,” Bartone said. “The AMA is proud to join the international and local chorus of voices urging action to address climate change on health grounds.” 

Doctors call on the government to bring in changes

The AMA has called on the Australian government to introduce several changes to reduce the effects of climate change. These include adopting mitigation targets; promoting the health benefits of addressing the climate emergency; developing a National Strategy for Health and Climate Change; supporting the move towards a renewable energy economy and reducing carbon emissions in the healthcare economy.

The AMA’s declaration follows on from an open letter submitted in April 2019 by a group of Australian health and medical associations. They include Doctors for the Environment, the Climate and Health Alliance, the Royal Australian College of Physicians, and the Australian Medical Students’ Association. The letter told all political parties of  the “significant and profound impacts climate change has on the health of people and our health system.”

In making the declaration, the AMA joins other international health organizations in calling for urgent climate action.

The Australian conservative government has come under heavy criticism for its lack of action of addressing the climate emergency. Latest government figures show the country’s carbon emissions to have risen in the year to March.

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