Climate Change Heats up on Health Debate

October 3, 2003

On the eve of Hugh White's (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) comments that Australia is unprepared for biological warfare, scientists from the World Health Organisation have stated to the World Climate Change Conference that global warming is responsible for 160,000 deaths per year. This figure is also said to double by 2020 as climate change effects increase.

Most of the global warming related deaths are a result of malaria and malnutrition as increased temperatures, flash flooding and droughts effect vector borne diseases and food security.

The world's most vulnerable peoples include children, the elderly, and HIV positive people in developing countries. Food and water scarcity in a warming climate is exacerbated by under-resourced and ill-prepared health systems.

The statement coincides with the birthdate of Australia's Medicare system and the National Symposium on Climate Change and Health in Canberra. The authors of the report "Human Health and Climate Change in Oceania: A Risk Assessment 2002" have predicted that the malaria zone in Australia could extend as far south as Gladstone, and Dengue Fever as far as Rockhampton on the eastern sea-board by 2050.

The greater concerns are for the peoples of the Pacific Islands, who are currently experiencing water shortages as fresh water supplies have become inundated with sea-water in parts of Micronesia.

The statement on climate change deaths from WHO scientists also comes in the wake of last weeks estimates that the death toll in France reached 19,000 for the 14 day period where temperatures peaked at 40 degrees.

"Climate change poses the stark reality that our pollution in the industrial world is causing intense health, water and food pressures in already impoverished parts of the world." stated climate justice campaign Stephanie Long.

"Our current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unacceptable on humanitarian grounds alone, and will ultimately effect the health of our own population in Australia. If only the government would have the foresight to see beyond the short term mentality of election cycles and make the institutional changes required to mandate emissions reduction in Australia." continued Ms Long.

For comment:

Stephanie Long
Mob: 0414 136 461