Doctors call for fossil fuel ban as climate impacts human health

Public health

By Mardi Chapman

17 Jun 2024

Nephrologists Associate Professor Katherine Barraclough and Dr Jane Waugh are among the specialists who have put their name to a call for the government to ban all new coal, oil and gas projects.

An Open Letter, published in The Australian recently, included about 400 signatures from medical specialists, GPs and other health professionals, spanning all ages from medical students to Emeritus Professors. [link here]

“Coal, oil and gas are hazardous to our health and wellbeing,” the Letter said.

“They are the primary drivers of climate change, which is recognised as the single biggest health threat facing humanity by the World Health Organization,” it said.

“They cause hazardous air pollution, increasing the rates of asthma, heart disease, cancer, learning delays and poor pregnancy outcomes.”

The Letter said people’s health must come ahead of the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

“To protect the health of the Australian people, we the undersigned health professionals call on our government to ban all new coal, oil and gas projects.”

Auspiced by Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) and the Australia Institute, signatories include DEA chair and gastroenterologist Laureate Professor Nicholas Talley, AMA federal president Professor Steve Robson, child health researcher and national living treasure Professor Fiona Stanley, and Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty.

The timing of the letter follows a May federal budget the DEA slammed for failing to provide funding to implement Australia’s National Health and Climate Strategy [link here].

The Strategy was launched by the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in December 2023.

“We need a rapid implementation of the Strategy to protect Australians from the significant health threats of climate change, minimise Australia’s health sector’s significant contribution to climate pollution, while delivering sustainable, high quality health care for patients and financial savings to the community,” the DEA said in response to the Budget.

Meanwhile, the government has opened four new coal mines since it came to power in 2022 and is considering another 25 applications for new or expanded coal mines.

Even less helpful, the Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is refusing to set any 2030 emissions reduction targets for the Coalition ahead of the next federal election.

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