Doctors warn Prime Minister on climate health emergency

16 Sep 2021

In an open letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the AMA, Doctors for the Environment Australia and ten medical colleges said it’s time for action to reduce emissions and save lives.  

Motivated by the impact climate change is having and will continue to have on public health and the doctors who serve the public, the AMA, Doctors for the Environment Australia, and ten medical specialist colleges sent an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week.  

Australia continues to be a laggard in the international arena, when committing to meaningful emission reduction targets, and the letter said medical leaders were calling on the government to “urgently take much greater action to avert a further deterioration of the current climate crisis.  

“With the crucial UN climate change conference (COP26) just weeks away, Australia must significantly lift its commitment to the global effort to bring climate change under control in order to save lives and protect health.” 

The open letter calls on the Government to: 

  • Commit to an ambitious national plan to protect health by cutting Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, aligned to science-based targets, this decade.  
  • Develop a national climate change and health strategy to facilitate planning for future climate health impacts 
  • Establish a national Sustainable Healthcare Unit to support environmentally sustainable practice in healthcare and reduce the sector’s own significant emissions. 

The media picked up the story and the AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid was sought after as a leading voice. There were stories in prominent media including ABC radio news and current affairs, digital and free-to-air television; News Corp publications; commercial radio and independent media such as The Conversation, with parliamentary journalist Michelle Grattan taking up the story and combining it with the concerns of Australia’s farmers about the rapidly changing climate.  
 
In an interview with the ABC’s Joe O’Brien on the ABC News Channel Dr Khorshid said action needed to be taken this decade. 

“This climate emergency is a health emergency. There are health impacts of climate change right now being experienced around the world including here in Australia, and that's only going to get worse as we see the increase in global temperatures that is now inevitable. 

“The science is in, there is no debate about whether our planet is warming. It's a matter of how much it's going to warm and the medical profession, that's all the specialists, medical colleges, the AMA and Doctors for the Environment, are calling on the Prime Minister for Australia to take a leading role, to commit to limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees and to start the action that's going to be needed to achieve that goal right now,” he said.  

Read the transcript here.