Denials Down Under: Climate Change and Health

Richard Horton’s note in an October 2015 issue of The Lancet was cautiously optimistic.  It described the launch of Doctors for Climate Change Action, led by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference COP21.  The initiative had arisen from a statement endorsed by a range of medical and international health organisations (some 69 in all), specifically emphasising that ancient obligation for a doctor to protect the health of patients and their communities.  But, as if to add a more cautionary tale of improvement, the 2015 Lancet Commission also concluded that the response to climate change would, in all likelihood, be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.

A more sombre note tends to prevail in such assessments.  The RACP has itself made the observation that:

Unchecked, climate change threatens to worsen food and water shortages, change the risk of climate-sensitive diseases, and increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.  This is likely to have serious consequences for public health and wellbeing.

In recent years, the link to a rise in temperatures has been associated with specific medical events, such as the transmission of infectious diseases.  The Lancet notes one example specific to mosquitoes and their increasingly energised role:

Vectorial capacity of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus has increased since 1990, with tangible effects – notably…

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