Climate change in Australia: risks to human wellbeing and health

24 Mar 2009


Anthony McMichael from the Australian National University writes that "climate change belongs to a wider range of human-induced global environmental changes that are now assuming great and urgent importance. Collectively, these changes signify that human pressures are weakening and endangering the planet’s life support systems.

Climate change will have many, and diverse, effects on human biological processes, risks of injury, and hence on health." McMichael discusses the adverse health impacts of climate change on those most likely to bear the greatest burden: low-income, poorly-resourced and geographically vulnerable populations. “The range of adaptive strategies is very wide, with options at all levels from national through to household and individual levels”, McMichael argues. “They include, for example, early-warning systems for heat-waves, community alerts for fragile older persons, better surveillance systems for the detection of shifts in infectious disease patterns, strengthened physical barriers against weather disasters, enhanced disaster response preparedness, and food supplementation systems.”

McMichael concludes that “some adaptive strategies will be needed at supranational level. This includes the need for regional early-warning of intensified storms and cyclones, for transboundary flooding via amplified river flows, and for the anticipated spread of climate-sensitive infectious diseases. Within this frame, there will be a number of needs and opportunities for cooperative arrangements and for information-sharing between neighbouring countries – as in the case of Indonesia and Australia.”

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