Doctors concerned over health impacts of climate change

Australian doctors are concerned about the many serious health impacts of manmade climate change as global temperatures continue to rise, pushing our summers towards 50 degrees.

Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to this year’s record heatwaves across southern Australia – 203 in Victoria alone – and thousands more were treated for heatstroke.  More than 60 children, including a baby, were left locked in hot cars during the heatwaves.

Professor Fiona Stanley, a former Australian of the Year, says: “We now know that climate change poses the biggest threat to human health this century. Our grandchildren and future generations are counting on our not turning away.”

Professor Stanley was among leading doctors and scientists to voice concerns at the 2014 national Doctors for the Environment Australia conference in March on the growing health challenge posed by climate change in Australia.  

Doctors for the Environment Australia equate the burning of fossil fuels such as coal (which causes climate change) with smoking (which causes cancer) as a major health hazard.
Doctors for the Environment Australia equate the burning of fossil fuels such as coal (which causes climate change) with smoking (which causes cancer) as a major health hazard.

Doctors for the Environment Australia has issued warnings that the health of Australians is at risk from rising temperatures from global warming, and that the burning of fossil fuels is harming public health via air pollution and by increasingly extreme weather via climate change.

Australian health charity the Climate and Health Alliance has also warned that Australia’s failure to mitigate climate change is putting Australians’ health at risk.

Doctors say impacts on children’s health include psychological stress from experiencing extreme weather events and exposure to a deteriorating environment, as well as post-traumatic stress following disasters such as intense bushfires.

In Victoria, schools have been closed and international health experts called in over high levels of air pollution from a burning coal mine caused by bushfires during early February heatwaves. The coal fire is causing health problems for local residents, and adding to Australia’s climate pollution. Doctors have called for an investigation.

Watch The Human Cost of Power, a recent film produced by CAHA and the Public Health Association of Australia about ill health and air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels.  A recent CAHA Forum on Climate and Health released a joint statement from participants urging greater action on climate in order to protect Australians. 

deaDoctors for the Environment raise climate change impacts on health as an election issue in the WA Senate election in April;  DEA statement on new international scientific report on climate;  CAHA statement

2014 and 2013 submissions by Doctors for the Environment on Government climate policies;  submissions by CAHA 

Future under threat: climate change and children’s health;  UNICEF report on risks to children worldwide 

Why climate change is very bad for your health

Australian Medical Association information on climate change and health

Why renewable energy is better for your health – why Australia needs a strong Renewable Energy Target

What did you do when the earth and our health was unravelling? Health sector spreads the climate health message on social media;  Communicating climate change and health

Doctors for divestment

Dangers of fracking for coal seam gas – fears for water contamination

Doctors for the Environment: – also on Facebook and Twitter: @DocsEnvAus;  DEA spokesman, Perth doctor George Crisp, is a leading advocate calling for greater climate action due to the health impacts of climate change – follow him on Twitter: @DrGCrisp

Climate and Health Alliance: – also on Facebook and Twitter: @healthy_climate.  Also follow CAHA founder and convenor Fiona Armstrong @farm_strong


Follow @TanyiaMaxted on Twitter and Instagram for #climatechange updates. Like 50 degrees? on Facebook.

Based in Perth, Tanyia Maxted writes on the climate crisis, divestment from the fossil fuels causing climate change, and solutions such as solar-charged electric cars.  The mother-of-two previously worked in water science communication for an Australian Government-funded national research centre, and in science communication for two Perth universities.  See archived articles for ScienceNetworkWA and her UK-published books via Amazon.