Health risks of global climate change

30 November 2011

The NRHA welcomes the Climate Commission’s documentation of the health risks from climate
change.

The Climate Commission is an independent body set up to provide a reliable and authoritative
source of information on climate change, and to help inform the debate on the issue.
Among other things, global climate change induced by human activity is increasing the incidence
of severe weather events (including heatwaves) and changing the distribution of diseases that are
related to environmental factors. At the global level, as well as within rural Australia, climate
change will lead to significant population displacement and put increasing pressure on already
overburdened health services and infrastructure.

Such issues make climate change a serious public health challenge for Australia and the release of
today’s report by the Climate Commission provides strong evidence of the dynamics of these
effects.
“Given the extent to which it will affect communities in rural and remote areas, unmitigated
climate change has the capacity to increase the gap between rural and metropolitan health status,”
said Gordon Gregory, Executive Director of the National Rural Health Alliance.
“On the other hand, with active planning and as relative prices change, it’s also true that the
majority of new economic opportunities will be in rural areas.”

The Report points out that the elderly, the young, those with chronic illness, those in lower socioeconomic
groups and Indigenous communities are particularly at risk. An effective public health
response to climate change is essential to preventing injuries and illnesses, enhancing public
health preparedness and reducing risk. This is the critical decade for action, and health
professionals have an important role to play.

Australia needs to prepare for some of the inevitable impacts on human health while supporting
action to prevent further adverse effects by reducing greenhouse emissions.
The Alliance will continue to work with communities and governments to ensure that people in
rural and remote Australia are aware of the risks of climate change for their health and the health
of their community.

Media Release Contact Info: 

Dr Lesley Barclay - Chair: 0412 282 801
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660