Australian Blog

  • What? You don’t think humans are causing climate change? ~ Peter Todd

    By on May 12, 2017

    Written by Peter Todd and posted by Susie Fraser

    I get shocked when people say to me they don’t believe in global climate change or that it’s not

    caused by humans. They often start talking about hoaxes, middle ages warming, ice ages or even

    more complex stuff. You only need six basic facts to know that climate change is real and caused by

    humans.

    1. The greenhouse warming effect of CO2 is proven by even basic school science experiments.

    2. The only possible source of CO2 to fully explain the current increase is from human causes.

    3. Fossil fuels burnt since the industrial revolution closely matches the level of CO2 increase.

    4. Fossil fuels burned closely matches the reduction in oxygen levels.

    5. The average global temperatures are tracking the CO2 increase. The CO2 increase is steady

    and temperatures are less steady showing that CO2 is the cause, not the other way around.

    6. The start of CO2 increase coincides with the start of the industrial revolution.

    You may be able to find ways to create doubt on some of these points individually but the likelihood

    that all six are wrong is ridiculous. (Source Mythbusters – Global Warming & Climate Change Cluedo)

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  • Negative Health Impacts of Climate Change

    By on April 25, 2017

    While talking to parliamentarians with Citizen’s Climate Lobby in March, we were told that the negative health consequences of climate change is an area where there is bipartisan interest and concern.   The following is a summary of the points made in a discussion I led during a recent CCL Australia Zoom Conference.

    There are numerous ways health is affected by climate change.

    1.  Heatwaves

    These are increasing in intensity, frequency and duration.  There has been a doubling of record hot days since 1960.

    They have caused more deaths since 1890 than cyclones, bush fires, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined.

    There has been a steady increase in mortality in summer compared to winter over the last four decades, suggesting that climate change is already altering health outcomes.

    In the January 2009 Victorian heatwave, there was a 46% increase in emergency call outs on the three hottest days.  Cardiac attacks tripled.  There were 374 excess deaths in the heatwave, a 62% increase compared to the previous year, whereas the fires themselves caused 173 deaths.

    Heat waves cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion as well as worsening in heart, lung and kidney disease.  They possibly cause an increase in preterm birth and underweight babies.  The most vulnerable populations include the elderly, young children, pregnant women and those in financially disadvantaged communities.

    Heatwaves are associated with power failures – lack of air conditioning then exacerbates the risk of adverse health outcomes.  The loss of refrigeration can cause wastage of medicines and vaccines, many of which require refrigeration.  Also there is an increased risk of gastrointestinal diseases due to food spoilage.

    2.  Bush fires

    The risk of bush fires has increased and is expected to continue to increase, especially in south eastern Australia.

    They cause death and illness directly through burns, injuries, dehydration, heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation – this of course includes fire fighters.

    The more indirect effects include damage to hospitals and medical centres.

    The mental health effects are yet another cost – these can be devastating and long standing.  Following the 2003 Canberra bush fires, the was a significant increase in emotional and behavioural problems in children involved.  About 50% displayed some post traumatic stress symptoms.

    3.  Floods and Storm Surges

    There is the direct effect of drowning and injuries.

    Contaminated water caused directly by floods or by damage to sewage treatment infrastructure pose a significant risk of gastrointestinal infectious diseases.

    There is an increase in mosquito borne disease due to an increase in breeding grounds for the mosquitoes.

    Again there is a significant effect on mental health.  The 2011 Queensland floods affected more than 78% of Queensland.  People affected were twice as likely to display mental health symptoms, including  those suggesting PTSD, than individuals who were not affected.

    4.  Infectious Diseases

    The changes in temperature and rainfall mean an increased risk of mosquito borne disease, such and Ross River Fever and Dengue Fever, much further south than was seen in the past.

    5.  Allergies

    Increasing levels and carbon dioxide and higher temperatures result in an increase in production, potency and release of pollen and fungal spores.  Damp conditions following storm surges and floods promote the growth of mould.  These are all triggers for asthma and other allergic conditions.

    Air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ground level ozone, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide can aggravate asthma and contribute to the development of asthma in children.

    6.  Air Pollution

    Across Australia, air pollution contributes to about 3000 deaths per year (compared to a road toll of 1209 in 2015).  It is estimated that it causes 6.5 million deaths a year worldwide.

    Burning coal to generate electricity releases many pollutants,including particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, cadmium and arsenic.  these pollutants contribute to lung cancer, other lung disease such as asthma, heart disease and stroke.

    Urban smog contains a number of pollutants.  One of them is ground level ozone, the levels of which increase on hot, sunny days.  Ozone is a potent airway irritant, triggering asthma.  Just in Sydney, by 2050, the number of hospital admissions caused by ozone pollution is expected to double.

    In conclusion,  as shown in this summary, the effects of climate change on health is myriad and deeply concerning.  As a general practioner, it is my role to try to tackle the root causes of illness.  My efforts with Citizen’s Climate Lobby allow me to attempt to achieve this, with respect to climate change, in the most effective way I can.

    Darshini Heaney

    Member of Citizen’s Climate Lobby
    Member of Doctors for the Environment

    Further Reading:
    Climate and Health in Australia Factsheets, from Doctors for the Environment (DEA), Australia
    DEA Climate and Health in Australia Factsheet – downloadable and very well referenced

     

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  • The Tale of Rocky and Sandy

    By on April 10, 2017

    Look what our clever leader, Rod Mitchell, has devised with designers Nick Kebbell and Maxine Gadd. You guys rock!

    Click Read More to view A Tale of Two Rocks; Rocky and Sandy

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  • Inspiring Lobby Days in Canberra

    By on March 23, 2017

    “They need us” said one of the volunteers in our round of ‘highlights and insights’ at the end of 2 days lobbying in Parliament. There were nods and sounds of agreement around the group; we were all so pleased as well as surprised at how well we had been received in many of the 30+ meetings we had with MPs and their staff. And to have the sense that what we are doing is very important and badly needed was very gratifying.

    On our briefing day before the 2 days of lobbying, I said that part of our purpose was to inject the parliament with positivity and hopefulness; and to inoculate it against the destructive “adversarialism” that feeds the trench warfare around climate and energy. It seems we made significant progress with both, and that the parliament was beginning to notice.

    Thirty of us had gathered for that briefing day, where we practised our listening skills, studied conservative language and inspired each other with our passion and determination to create the political will for climate solutions. Best of all, we made new connections and built the relationships that would sustain us through the next two days.

    Throughout Monday and Tuesday teams formed, briefed, lobbied, debriefed and dispersed in a seemingly seamless process that went like clockwork. Mostly we returned to the café with big smiles and a sense of having achieved something significant. News of some exceptional meetings in which breakthroughs occurred spread quickly around the café.Lobbyday17 (2)

    At the end of Monday most of us assembled at the top of the marble stairs for our round of highlights and insights and heard many powerful and affirming snippets from the day. Then a security guard took this photograph on the marble steps.

     

    One of our objectives was to gauge interest in a “Parliamentary Friends Group on Climate Solutions”. We were heartened to find significant enthusiasm, especially amongst younger and newer MPs. Several times we were told that what we are doing is very important and were urged to keep going. A ‘Friends’ group could be a critical tool in moving the parliament towards bipartisan climate solutions.

    On Sunday my hopes for injecting hope and inoculating against ‘adversarialism’ seemed a huge stretch and a touch outrageous. Three days later it looks more than possible. We have been greatly encouraged and now we are inspired to follow through in supporting our MPs with new information and ideas to maintain what we have achieved.

    Our next visit to Canberra will be for our third National Conference in September. By then we hope to have several staff members, a higher profile and 60 or more volunteers. One of our challenges is going to be to find a larger base to work from – we are outgrowing the Queens Terrace Café!

    Rod Mitchell – National Coordinator

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  • What a time we had!

    By on March 23, 2017

    I am sure Rod will make a longer post here shortly, and give lots of details.

    We had a grand time, with many successful meetings. Generally the MPs and staff we met with were very encouraging and supportive of the work we are doing. Good progress was made towards encouraging a “Friends of the Climate” group in Parliament.

    This was the first time we have had interns working with us, and they did a wonderful job scheduling appointments, and researching biographical information for the people we were meeting.

    And, of course, we continued to build the relationships and fellowship that are so important in making the work we do together sing.

    Susie

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