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
The 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 9 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.
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 new 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. Nine colleges have endorsed the report.
Watch the online launch of the report.
- Professor John Wilson AM, RACP President
- Dr George Laking, Aotearoa New Zealand RACP President
- Professor Tony Capon, Director MSDI
- Dr Catherine Pendrey, General Practitioner
- Dr Richard Smith, Chair, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and former Editor and Chief Executive of the British Medical Journal
- Dr Nick Watts, Chief Sustainability Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement
- Professor Lynne Madden, Chair, Climate Change and Health Research Project Advisory Committee
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 2021 MJA-Lancet Australian policy brief, available on Lancet Resources along with policy briefs from other participating countries.
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