The Academy’s work on the health impacts of climate change addresses the most urgent areas for action in Australia.
The Academy began work on health and climate change following the devastating summer of 2019-2020, where bushfires raged through Australia. These fires burned more than 17 million hectares of land. The Academy responded by bringing together Australian experts in climate science with Fellows of the health and medical sciences to understand what is known and what is unknown about the short, medium and long-term impacts on physical and mental health.
This group of experts is now the AAHMS Climate Change and Health Steering Committee, formed in January 2020. The committee’s role is to guide the Academy’s work into what health impacts may lie ahead as a result of Australia’s changing climate.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia is likely to see higher frequency and severity of such extreme weather events over the coming decades. To make sure that Australia is equipped to recover from the 2019-2020 season and to deal with future events, it is essential that uncertainty about the health impacts of these events is addressed, and addressed through research.
The Academy aims to address the need for advice that is tailored to vulnerable groups, such as those with pre-existing conditions, older people, infants, children, pregnant women, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
What’s happening in 2021?
The Committee is conducting a series of sector discussions to uncover what can be learned from Indigenous knowledge, what’s holding up action on health impacts of climate change, and how we can start addressing the key health issues caused by climate change.
Recent work of the committee
- The Academy produced a summary of evidence addressing health areas and how they are impacted by bushfires which was provided to government. Read a news story about this publication and download it below.
- A joint briefing – “After the bushfires: addressing the health impacts” – was developed with the Australian Academy of Science. In this briefing, the Academies explored the long-term health impacts of the Australian bushfires on human health including health challenges caused by bushfire smoke and the direct impact of the fires on communities. Find a news story
- The Academy responded to the Senate Finance and Administration Standing Committee inquiry into the “Lessons learned from the bushfire season 2019/2020”. Read more about the Academy’s participation in the public hearing in Academy news.
- The Academy provided a submission to the Royal Commission into the National Natural Disaster Arrangements where we highlighted the importance of considering a health perspective when responding to, and recovering from, natural disasters. In May 2020, the Academy was invited to provide evidence to the hearing for the Royal Commission and was represented by Professor Stephen Duckett FAHMS.
This work is also summarised in our policy priority highlight.
Climate Change and Health Steering Committee members
Top image credit: iStock.AAHMS contact: Lanika Mylvaganam, AAHMS Policy Officer ([email protected])
Second image credit: European Space Agency.