This report summarises the discussions and recommendations of researchers to consider climate challenges in relation to health in Australia.
By the end of the century, global temperatures are likely to have risen by at least 2°C compared with pre-industrial times. No nation will be immune to the resulting changes in the world’s weather patterns and as international negotiations aimed at reducing future carbon emissions continue to have limited success, it would be rash for any country to fail to plan to meet the consequent challenges to their infrastructure and citizens. For Australia, one of the most important concerns is the health of its people.
This report summarises the discussions and recommendations of a group of early- and mid-career researchers from a broad range of relevant disciplines who came together in July 2014 to consider climate challenges in relation to health in Australia. Five main impacts were considered:
- Extreme weather events. These include heatwaves, droughts, storms, cyclones and floods. These will have direct impacts on lives, homes and communities, and will also place stress on the mental wellbeing of members of the community during prolonged events such as intense heatwaves.
- Disease. Many diseases are likely to spread and increase in incidence as the climate warms. A growing human population with high rates of interconnectedness is also at risk from newly emergent and exotic diseases for which we have no treatment or immunity.
- Food and water. Disrupted supplies of water and high temperatures will stress crops and promote algal blooms in reservoirs while rising ocean acidification will affect fisheries.
- Jobs. Livelihoods—including farming, fishing and tourismâ€”will be particularly badly affected from soaring temperatures, droughts and storms. Employment patterns will be changed and disruptions to supply chains will threaten businesses.
- Security. Threatened food supply chains, changing patterns of infectious diseases, and forced migration from land rendered uninhabitable will trigger tension, unrest and violent conflict.