The China-US agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 has the capacity to transform the debate on the matter in Australia. And the people of rural and remote Australia will want to be heard.
The National Rural Health Alliance has long recognised the impact of increasing weather intensity and variability on the health of people in rural and remote Australia.
The Alliance has released a new Fact Sheet on the effects of climate change on the health of people in rural and remote areas and the communities in which they live.
“The public debate about climate change needs to understand the particular challenges it poses to people in more remote areas. Health services in rural and remote areas need to be well-prepared for the higher incidence of both weather-induced health conditions and natural disasters,” said Gordon Gregory, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance.
“The vulnerability of a community to the health impacts of climate change is a function of a range of factors, such as its age, socio-economic and occupational profile, and pre-existing health conditions. Heat-related morbidity will affect all Australians but may impact more seriously in rural/remote areas, given the relatively older populations, the higher prevalence of chronic conditions, the more isolated physical and social circumstances, and older and hotter homes”.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders - of whom two-thirds live outside the capital cities - are at particular risk of heat-related morbidity.
The Australian Health Review has reported that the Australian public health system is particularly vulnerable to climate change and that this will have a significant impact on population health. In rural and remote Australia, which already experiences health care deficits, the impact of climate change will be very serious.
The Fact Sheet highlights several impacts of climate change on rural and remote communities.
An increase in the variability of seasonal conditions for agriculture will increase the burden of stress on farming families and others whose wellbeing is directly linked to agriculture.
Drought, flooding, bushfire and other extreme weather events can affect the price and availability of food, placing people at increased risk of malnutrition.
Prolonged dry periods will also lead to greater reliance on local water courses, bores and rooftop collection, which are more susceptible to contamination than town water.
The transmission of certain arboviruses such as Dengue and Ross River Virus is also likely to be facilitated by changed environmental conditions. Warmer conditions also increase the risk of multiplication of food borne bacteria, during transport and storage, resulting in food poisoning.
For these and other reasons, the impact of climate change is of real concern for the National Rural Health Alliance and it urges the Government to redouble its efforts to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions.
The Fact Sheet ‘Rural Health Impacts of Climate Change’ can be accessed at: http://ruralhealth.org.au/factsheets/thumbs
Gordon Gregory (Chief Executive Officer) 02 6285 4660
Damien Hickman (Communications) 0414 380 892