Climate Change and Health

“Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.”

The Lancet Commission Report on Climate Change and Health

Urgent action on climate change represents an opportunity to simultaneously reduce the harms and risks of climate change, and improve health outcomes for Australians, New Zealanders, and the world.

Unchecked, climate change threatens to worsen food and water shortages, change the risk of climate-sensitive diseases, and increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. This is likely to have serious consequences for public health and wellbeing.

The RACP is part of a large and growing global network of health and medical organisations calling for action on climate change, including more sustainable healthcare and evidence based strategies for management of extreme weather related risks to healthcare infrastructure, operations and personnel.

Position statements, submissions and media

Advocacy campaigns and events

2019 Australian Election campaign: Future-proofing the healthcare system

The RACP’s Pre-Budget Submission 2019-2020 (PDF) and Australian Government Election Statement 2019 (PDF) drew attention to the urgent need for climate action and highlighted the importance of measures to tackle climate change, obesity and chronic illness for building a sustainable healthcare system. Climate change was also a focus of our member election advocacy kit. See the fact sheet (PDF)

We also joined with other health organisations, as well as social welfare and conservation groups to endorse a letter from the Climate and Health Alliance (PDF) calling on all political parties and candidates to implement a national strategy on climate change and health and supporting a sustainable health sector.

In February 2019, the RACP endorsed the Doctors for the Environment Australia’s 'No Time for Games' campaign. Doctors are calling on political leaders to commit climate action to protect children’s health in the lead up to the federal election. 

Fossil fuel divestment

Fossil fuel usage poses a direct threat to human health, contributing to air pollution that causes 7 million deaths per year worldwide, as reported in a World Health Organisation media release in 2014. Accordingly, we recently sent two letters to HESTA and First State Super urging divestment from all fossil fuel exposed companies classified as ‘Tier 1’ in terms of fossil fuel exposure. 

24th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 24)

Dr Linda Selvey, President of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine and the Division Head of Disease Prevention and Control and the University of Queensland represented the RACP as part of the health delegation at COP24 in Poland in December 2018. Dr Selvey highlighted the potential to use health as a motivator for climate action.

Opening Keynote from Dr David Pencheon at RACP Congress 2018

Dr David Pencheon, founder of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) addressed RACP members at Congress 2018 on 'Disruption for sustainable healthcare'. His talk emphasised the importance of planetary health to patient health, the impact of the healthcare sector on climate change and the action that needs to be taken, using the NHS SDU as an example. 

Climate Change Health Breakfast
Climate change and human health: Tracking the transition from threat to opportunity

In August 2017, the RACP hosted an event facilitated by Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine Fellow, Professor Lynne Madden. Guest speakers Dr Nick Watts, Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown and Professor Tony Capon, the inaugural Professor of Planetary Health at the University of Sydney discussed the threat to global public health posed by climate change and the impact of advocacy by health and medical organisations.
Listen to a recording of the event

Doctors for Climate Action

In 2015, the RACP coordinated an international campaign 'Doctors for Climate Action' including a Global Consensus Statement: Act Now to Reduce the Damaging Health Impacts of Climate Change (PDF). The statement was supported by 69 health and medical organisations and 1,500 doctors and other individuals.  

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Curated collection: Climate change and health
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