Climate Change and Health
Action on climate change represents an opportunity to both reduce harms and risks of climate change and improve health outcomes across Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand and the world.
Climate change threatens to worsen food and water shortages and climate-sensitive diseases and increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Health impacts such as respiratory illness from bushfire smoke and heat stress are already seen. Without urgent action, climate change will continue to have serious and worsening consequences for public health.
We are part of a large and growing global network of health and medical organisations calling for action on climate change to protect health. Our calls include:
- an urgent transition to zero emission renewable energy across all economic sectors with support to affected communities
- implementation and funding of a national climate change and health strategy to build climate resilience
- an environmentally sustainable healthcare sector
Contribute your expertise
If you're an RACP physician, paediatrician or trainee interested in Policy and Advocacy, we want to hear from you. Find out more about how you can represent your profession or contact us.
Our work on climate change and health
Healthy Climate Future campaign
Climate change is a major risk to our healthcare system. Doctors are seeing the impacts first-hand while supporting their communities in the aftermath of devastating floods and bushfires. Together with 10 other medical colleges, we've launched the Healthy Climate Future campaign. We encourage all members to support the campaign with its policy asks and take action.
Get involved in Healthy Climate Future
We have 3 position statements on climate change and health:
Climate Change and Health (PDF)
Environmentally Sustainable Healthcare (PDF)
The Health Benefits of Mitigating Climate Change (PDF)
To promote these positions, we regularly respond to public consultations and engage in key projects in this space. Our work on health impacts of air pollution and health benefits of environmental protection supports this activity.
Climate change and health research report
The RACP has launched a research report Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice (PDF).
We commissioned the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Climate and Health Alliance, Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health to produce the report on the risks of climate change to Australian healthcare systems and how best to manage these risks.
The report has 4 research projects – a rapid literature review, policy and institutional analysis, economic analysis and a series of case studies that illustrate the breadth and complexity of climate impacts to health systems.
An advisory committee guided the project with representatives from 10 medical colleges contributing knowledge and expertise from a diverse range of specialties:
- Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM)
- Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA)
- Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM)
- College of Intensive Care Medicine (CICM)
- Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)
- Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS)
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG)
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO)
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP)
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)
The collaboration is believed to be the first of its kind to unite medical colleges in a joint research project on the impact of climate change to the health system. Ten colleges have endorsed the report.
Watch the online launch of the report.
MJA-Lancet Countdown on health and climate change
Lancet Countdown reports | We have contributed to the development of the Lancet Countdown and MJA-Lancet Countdown policy briefs on Australia’s progress on health and climate change since 2017. The policy brief provides actionable, evidence-based recommendations for decision makers based on the findings of the MJA-Lancet Countdown and the global Lancet Countdown reports.
MJA-Lancet Australian policy brief | We endorsed the 2022 MJA-Lancet Australian policy brief, available on Lancet Resources along with policy briefs from other participating countries.
Submissions and advocacy
Letter to the Prime Minister on the health harms of fossil fuels (PDF)
Letter to the Northern Territory Chief Minister on the health harms of fossil fuels (PDF)
Submission: Australian Commission on Safety and Quality Sustainable Healthcare Module (PDF)
RACP submission: National Health and Climate Strategy Consultation
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is playing an active role in shaping the National Health and Climate Strategy.
The RACP’s submission to the National Health and Climate Strategy Consultation emphasises the need for a National Health and Climate Strategy that prioritises building healthy and climate-resilient communities in addition to its current focus on climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable healthcare systems.
First Nations knowledge and leadership must guide all aspects of the Strategy. The Strategy must also build healthy and climate resilient communities through whole of government action and addressing the environmental, cultural and social determinants of health. A focus on health equity, prevention, reducing low-value care and engagement with sectors beyond the healthcare system is needed.
The RACP calls for full funding of the Strategy and its resourcing on an ongoing basis. We also advocate for National Cabinet endorsement of the Strategy and the establishment of a governance framework to enable its effective implementation.
The RACP also calls for the objectives of the Strategy to be outcomes focussed and reworded as follows:
- Healthy and Climate Resilient Communities: Empowering populations to thrive in the face of climate challenges through the application of Health in All Policies and proactive preventive measures.
- Climate Resilient Health Systems: Strengthening the capacity of health systems to proactively anticipate, adapt, and evolve in response to climate-related challenges.
- Environmentally Sustainable Health Systems: Seamlessly integrating stewardship and climate mitigation strategies throughout health systems, ensuring harmony with the environment.
Read the full National Health and Climate Strategy Consultation submission (PDF).
Media Release “Ten medical colleges representing more than100-000 doctors write to political leaders calling for a climate ready and climate friendly healthcare system”
Media Release “Physicians and paediatricians want a plan for a greener health system” calling on major parties to commit to a national climate and health strategy
Media Release: “We must now take the lead” – Sustainable healthcare is vital for action on climate change” calling for the health system to take the lead in sustainability efforts.
Presentation to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on the Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice
Presentation at University of Notre Dame Australia on the role of health professional organisations in climate change advocacy and education and Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice
Presentation at the Australian Medical Association conference on the Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice
Attendance at the Better Healthier Futures Roundtable. With a focus on driving health leadership on climate action including through supporting the development and implementation of a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia.
Presentation at Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Science conference on the Climate Change and Australia’s Healthcare Systems – A Review of Literature, Policy and Practice
Media Release “Health systems straining under mounting climate pressure, MJA & Lancet report warns” calling for a National approach that recognises the scale and complexity of impacts.
Media Release “Doctors want a climate safe health system, survey shows” a new survey of healthcare workers by the RACP found that 83% of respondents supported the healthcare system becoming more climate-friendly and climate-ready.
Opinion piece Climate action needed to prevent health crisis worsening by Professor John Wilson AM, RACP President
Media release “Our national health is on the line”: Physicians want a plan for climate and health from the PM at COP26 calling on the Prime Minister to acknowledge the health impacts of climate change.
Representation at the Climate Change Sustainability: Leadership and Action from Australian Doctors webinar and a joint letter to the Prime Minister (PDF)
Submission on the Victorian Health and Human Services Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 2022-2026 (PDF)
“Our national health is on the line”: Physicians want a plan for climate and health from the PM at COP26
Media Release Climate change is the biggest threat to health system calling for the Government to come up with a plan to tackle climate change.
Submission to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 Independent Review (PDF) followed by a media release
Submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (PDF) and a subsequent Submission to the Royal Commission’s Health Issues paper (PDF)
Endorsement of a joint letter calling for a #HealthyRecovery post-COVID-19 from AMA, RACGP, CICM, ACRRM, RANZCOG, RANZCP, AMSA and DEA, along with support for a joint media release
Endorsement and support of NSW RDN Natural Disaster and Emergency Primary Health Workforce Response
Media release calling on NSW and Federal governments to act on climate change and joint media release with other health organisations declaring air pollution in NSW a public health emergency in response to extreme heat and bushfire smoke
Declaration of a climate health emergency media release
Endorsement of Expert Position Statement on health-based standards for Australian regulated thresholds of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone (PDF) in ambient air, followed by a submission and media release
Submission to the Climate Health WA Inquiry (PDF)
Fossil fuel divestment letters sent to HESTA and First State super
Australian Federal election campaign statement (PDF) and advocacy, including an election advocacy kit with a factsheet (PDF), social media kit and template letter for candidates
Climate Change and Health breakfast lecture (MP3) event audio recording, hosted by the RACP and facilitated by Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine Fellow, Professor Lynne Madden
International 'Doctors for Climate Action' campaign coordinated by the RACP including a Global Consensus Statement: Act Now to Reduce the Damaging Health Impacts of Climate Change (PDF) supported by 69 health organisations and 1,500 individuals