A woman stands on a balcony wearing a face mask. In the background, the air is yellow from smoke.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

An aerial view of Australia, with smoke visible.

This work is also summarised in our policy priority highlight.

Climate Change and Health Steering Committee members

Professor Warwick Anderson FAHA FASSA FAHMS – Co-chair (on leave until October 2021)

Professor James McCarthy FAHMS

Professor Tony Capon- Co-chair

Professor Tania Sorrell AM FAHMS

Professor Fran Baum AO FASSA FAHMS – Acting Co-chair (until October 2021)

Professor Ian Anderson AO FAHMS

Professor Stephen Duckett FASSA FAHMS

Professor Jane Fisher AO

Associate Professor Coral Gartner

Professor Ingrid Scheffer (ex officio) AO FRS FAA PresAHMS

Professor Billie Giles Corti

Adjunct Professor Tarun Weeramanthri

 

AAHMS contact: Lanika Mylvaganam, AAHMS Policy Officer ([email protected])

Top image credit: iStock.

Second image credit: European Space Agency.