Climate change a health emergency

25 June 2015

The world's leading medical journal The Lancet has released a special report on climate change and its impact on human health, describing global warming as a health emergency.

The finding by The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change represents a significant elevation of alert level from their 2009 report which warned that climate change was the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century.

Australian National University (ANU) experts have commented on the report and the implications for Australia. They can be contacted directly, or through the ANU media hotline on 6125 7979.

A video of their discussion of the Lancet report is on YouTube.

Professor Archie Clements -Director, Research School of Population Health

"Climate change is a public health challenge. Its effects can undermine the health systems of other countries in the region, which presents a health and biosecurity risk to Australia. This report is a compelling argument to really take this problem seriously and deal with climate change."

Dr Liz Hanna - Research School of Population Health & President, Climate Change Health Alliance

"The ravages of climate change are being increasingly felt around the globe through a series of unprecedented heat waves and the most powerful and destructive storms in recorded history. Heat deaths increased 2,300 per cent within a decade through to 2010, and with Australia's hottest year occurring in 2013 and the world's hottest in 2014, this coming decade may well exceed that tragic toll.

"Our physiology cannot acclimatise to the heat extremes that will accompany such heating. The human thermoregulatory system has limits.

"The Lancet Commission report explains what is happening. It explains the health risks, and shows the effect climate change it is having on populations everywhere. It spells out exactly how we can, and should be responding, and how these modifications save money, and bring extra health benefits. Their message is clear."

Professor Janette Lindesay - Deputy Director, Fenner School of Environment and Society

"As well as slow onset events such as droughts, there are huge risks from extreme events, such as the big fires which are much more severe and hard to control in hotter and drier environment. By 2030 these one-in-twenty-year events might become one in two or three year events, which is something we're just not equipped to deal with at the moment."Dr Mark HowdenDirector, ANU Climate Change InstituteT: 02 6125 7266

Dr Mark Howden - Director, ANU Climate Change Institute

"Australian farmers and businesses are well adapted to climate variability, but the conditions they are finding themselves in are beyond their historical experience. When they have no adaptive strategies that results in psychological stress as well as resource stresses. Farmers are increasingly feeling stressed and disempowered about their future. As drought stress increases studies have found that levels of male suicide increase in rural areas."