The Australian Government’s contemptuous dismissal of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including the panel’s recommendation to dramatically reduce coal power by 2050, is unacceptable.
As Australian health professionals and scientists, we are dismayed by the implications of our government’s ongoing stance to disregard the consensus of the world’s leading climate scientists, the precautionary principle, and any idea of duty of care regarding the future wellbeing of Australians and our immediate neighbours.
Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and produces about 7% of the world’s coal.
Worldwide, fossil fuel burning produces around 72% of all greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities.
To limit global warming to 2°C, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and more than 80% of current coal reserves as of 2010 should remain unused.
Air pollution from coal burning is responsible for numerous health problems—according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016, around 2·5 million deaths were caused by solid fuel burning worldwide.
Ironically, no other member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is as vulnerable to climate disruption as Australia.
Climate disruption is already amplifying the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, bushfires, drought, and tropical storms, causing harm and damaging livelihoods.
As with other established historical harms to human health (eg, tobacco and exorbitant hepatitis C drug prices), narrow vested interests must be countered to bring about fundamental change in the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels.
The Australian Government must commit immediately to embrace strategies of energy generation that do not put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (panel)—with healthier communities reaping the benefits now and in the future. Without concerted action by all, the IPCC recommendation to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will certainly not be achieved.
Because of processes of colonisation and marginalisation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia have been cut off from lands and seas and are in poorer overall health; climate change will only amplify these inequities. Australia’s Pacific Island neighbours are also highly vulnerable to climate-related risks to health, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, habitability, food security, water supply, and economic growth.
Our disregard of their plight through continued coal burning is shameful.
Press link for more: The Lancet
A must watch video from Cambridge University Churchill College