Climate change has already presented health threats to Australia with such threats expected to grow in the future according to a massive group of medical doctors pleading with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to urgently address the country’s climate commitments and take a leading role on emissions reductions.
The plea came via an open letter published on Wednesday, with representatives from the AMA, Doctors for the Environment Australia, the Royal College of General Practitioners, RANZCOG, medical colleges and many more related associations.
And, as we found speaking with a number of women who signed and supported the letter, medical professionals are playing an increasing role in communicating the threat of climate change.
Dr Kim Loo, a GP based in Sydney and the NSW Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia, told Women’s Agenda that she has placed posters and messages on the walls of her surgery, inviting patients to have a conversation with her about climate change. One such poster features the amount of money she’s saving after switching to renewable energy, a message she says provides an excellent conversation starter.
Dr Loo says that having lived and worked in Western Sydney for most of her life, she’s seen firsthand how the area suffers from a lack of sheltered green spaces, and she’s concerned about what further implications may occur. She says her patients have been impacted by extreme heatwaves, prolonged exposure to bushfire smoke.
And she notes the direct impact this all has on day-to-day lives, especially for women.
“Mothers are still the main carers for their children. The smoke and heat from the summer of fires did make it difficult to do anything outside. Many had smoke enter their houses. Doctors are at the front line of the catastrophe that is climate change.
“We could not spell it out more clearly than our open letter from DEA, AMA and the colleges to PM Scott Morrison. We need the political will for a liveable world,” she says.
Meanwhile, Dr Kimberley Humphrey, an emergency physician based in Adelaide and Deputy chair of the DEA, tells Women’s Agenda the effects of climate change on all of us will be profound, and far more so for women and those in our communities who are marginalised or socially disadvantaged.
“The effects of climate change will be more devastating still on our regional and remote communities, and our First Nations communities in particular due to their cultural ties to land and environment,” she says.
“The chance we have to act now to prevent the very worst possible outcomes, and to build resilient and empowered communities is the greatest opportunity that we will ever have – our leaders must act now, decisively and bravely, or we will not have this chance again.”
Dr Katherine Barraclough, a Melbourne-based nephrologist and chair of the DEA for Victoria, also notes the disproportionate impact of climate-related events.
“The climate crisis is here and affecting health and lives now. We know that women and other vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected. There has never been a more critical time for the prime minister to put aside politics and listen to the science.”
In the Open letter, the medical professionals noted the 30 lives lost as a result of the 2019-2020 bushfire season, as well as the impacts of extreme weather events that have been occurring. in the northern hemisphere this year.
“Flooding, fires and heatwaves not only have immediate health risks, but also come with the longer-term physical, economic and mental impacts of displacement, loss of life and loss of livelihoods.”
The letter calls on the Morrison Government to urgently act on significantly reducing emissions this decade, including by accelerating Australia’s transition to renewable energy and acknowledging the health benefits of renewable energy.
This latest Open Letter comes as Farmers for Climate Action have also released a new report highlighting the opportunity for the Australian agricultural sector to reach zero emissions by the year 2040.