New research* from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has revealed
more than two thirds of Australians (68 per cent) are concerned about the rise in extremely
hot weather and the impact it will have on health and wellbeing.
The topic of climate change and health will feature prominently at the World Congress on
Public Health this week, with more than 2,000 health professionals descending on
Melbourne for the World Federation of Public Health Associations event.
RACP Faculty of Public Health Medicine President-elect Associate Professor Linda Selvey,
who will share the RACP research during her session this afternoon, said it was pleasing
that the majority of Australians are united in viewing climate change as a significant health
“There is undeniable evidence that climate change is fast becoming one of the most
challenging global public health issues of the twenty-first century and one that could overshadow
all others,” explained Associate Professor Linda Selvey.
“Left unchecked, extreme weather events, fires, disease, disruptions to food and water
supply, loss of livelihoods and threats to human security will push us all towards a global
public health emergency.
“Already in Australia, record-breaking heatwaves have seen significant increases in
emergency department presentations, ambulance callouts, and higher rates of heat-related
illness and mortality rates.
“Greater temperature increases in coming years will inevitably multiply health risks and put
further stress on the health sector.”
Last year was the hottest year on record globally, the third successive year of records,
reaching 1.1°C above the pre-industrial period. It was the fourth hottest year for Australia
and new record highs were recorded in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra.
Associate Professor Linda Selvey said the data is both comprehensive and conclusive and
she called on the Government to introduce a national climate and health strategy.
“This would ensure that the impact of climate change on health and the health sector would
be front and centre of Government deliberations when considering climate policy.
“A strategy would also result in greater collaboration between governments and provide
greater impetus for action—both adaptation and mitigation, as well as stronger research,
better disease monitoring, and education for healthcare professionals.
“The majority of Australians are concerned about the health risks of climate change – our
research has made this very clear. A national climate and health strategy would go some
way to reassuring Australians that governments are doing all they can to address this health
Associate Professor Linda Selvey said the RACP had long recognised the health impact of
climate change. In 2015, it launched its successful Doctors for Climate Action campaign
which positioned it as a global leader on the issue. Last year, the RACP released three
Climate Change and Health Position Statements
* Based on attitudinal research completed by Essential Media on behalf of the RACP in March 2017. Sample size of 1004 respondents.