Lancet Commission report highlights need to act on climate change and health

23 Jun 2015

AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, said today that the latest report from the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change provides further impetus for global action to combat and mitigate the effects of climate change on human health.

The report – Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health – “maps out the impacts of climate change, and the necessary policy responses, in order to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide”.

The two key messages from the report are:

  • The effects of climate change are being felt today, and future projections represent an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health.
  • Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.

“It is the AMA’s view that climate change is a significant worldwide threat to human health that requires urgent action, and we recognise that human activity has contributed to climate change,” Professor Owler said.

“There is considerable evidence to encourage governments around the world to plan for the major impacts of climate change, which include extreme weather events, the spread of diseases, disrupted supplies of food and water, and threats to livelihoods and security.

“The health effects of climate change include increased heat-related illness and deaths, increased food and water borne diseases, and changing patterns of diseases.

“The incidence of conditions such as malaria, diarrhoea, and cardio-respiratory problems is likely to rise.

“Extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding, and storms affect health infrastructure and services, and could lead to death and disease.”

Professor Owler said the Lancet report warns that the implications of climate change could undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health.

“The evidence is clear  we cannot sit back and do nothing,” Professor Owler said.

“Governments must prepare for the inevitable health and social effects of climate change and extreme weather events.

“The Lancet report and the recent Academy of Science report, Climate change challenges to health: Risks and opportunities, must be key references for the Australian Government in the development of the action plan it takes to the Paris Climate Change Conference later this year.

“The Paris Conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all nations of the world.

“The AMA believes Australia should be showing leadership in addressing climate change and the effects it is having, and will have, on human health.

“As part of the global community, Australia must lead with ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Lancet report – Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health – is at

The AMA released a Position Statement on Climate Change and Health in 2004, which was updated in 2008, and can be found at

The AMA is currently updating this Position Statement.

The World Medical Association (WMA) 2011 Durban Declaration approved a new Declaration on Climate and Health, which is at

The Australian Academy of Science Report – Climate change challenges to health: Risks and opportunities is here:

A video message on climate change and health from Professor Owler is here


23 June 2015

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