THE MJA-Lancet Countdown released its much-awaited 2019 report on climate change and health in Australia on 14 November 2019. This report provides a critical update on how Australia is managing climate change, which the World Health Organization has acknowledged as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century”. The report’s message is clear: the time for action — by individuals, local groups, and at all levels of government — is now.

The report paints a mixed picture of Australia’s progress on defining the public health challenge over the past year. On the bright side, several state and local governments are providing strong political leadership by developing proactive climate change and health strategies. For example, Queensland developed the Human Health and Wellbeing Climate Change Adaptation Plan, while Victoria released a public health and wellbeing plan 2019–2023. But the federal government is still failing to reckon with the health impacts of climate change, and Australians’ vulnerability to these impacts is still mounting.

Recent extreme weather events leave no doubt that governments must act boldly and decisively. The raging fires in Queensland and New South Wales in the past week resulted in the tragic loss of lives, as well as significant loss of animals and property. Last week, the NSW Rural Fire Service declared a catastrophic fire danger for the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter areas for the first time since the risk level system began, while NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a state of emergency for 7 days.

Catastrophic fires are just one way that worsening climate change has an impact on the health of Australians. This year’s MJA-Lancet Countdown report found the intensity of hazard posed to human health by heatwaves has increased by 33% in the past 20 years. We are increasingly recognising a connection between hot weather and suicide, particularly among men. We are seeing vectors for infectious disease such as dengue fever and Ross River virus appearing at times and in places we’ve never seen before. Higher temperatures may also increase the risk of food-borne infections due to the growth of pathogens including Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Climate change may exacerbate food insecurity through extreme weather events such as floods and drought. Declining food production and increasing prices threaten the availability of healthy food for Australians, placing more stress on Australian households. More frequent, and more severe, extreme weather events will cause death, disease and disability.

As a future doctor, I am infuriated that inertia and incrementalism — the defining features of Australia’s climate change response thus far — have jeopardised Australians’ health and wellbeing. My fellow medical students share this outrage, and are demanding better.

Successive governments across the globe and at all levels of power have failed to act. It is our generation that will experience the consequences of our damaged planet. At each major climate strike this year, hundreds of medical students marched in scrubs and stethoscopes, calling for action to protect the health of people and our planet. We recognise that action on climate change presents enormous opportunities to improve our future patients’ lives, and to make our health care system more resilient and sustainable.

But what should that action look like?

The MJA-Lancet Countdown aims to assess climate change and health in Australia and examines a number of indicators: climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation, planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health cobenefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement.

The MJA-Lancet Countdown has also published an accompanying policy brief, of which I am a co-author. The brief is a clear prescription for policy action to protect the health of people and the planet. In collaboration with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Australian Medical Students’ Association, we have drawn on Australian and international expertise to come up with three key recommendations. Each of these stems from the recognition that, when it comes to climate change and health, failing to plan is planning to fail.

First, the federal government should develop a national strategy to coordinate action on climate change and health at all levels of the Australian Government. Australia’s three tiers of government — local, state and territory, and federal — must have tailored, but consistent approaches to adaptation planning. Some climate change-related health impacts are already inevitable, and our health systems must be prepared for and resilient to these impacts.

Second, governments must go beyond the current ad hoc responses that we have to heatwaves and develop comprehensive heat hazard reduction strategies. Heat has killed more Australians than any other natural disaster, and we need multisectoral plans in place to reduce heat exposure and associated health impacts across the country.

Finally, and crucially, we must expedite Australia’s transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy production. This transition must be proactive, coordinated, and include clear plans to support affected communities. Australia is one of the world’s largest net exporters of coal and natural gas. With cheap, efficient renewable energy alternatives — and clean new jobs — now widely available, we cannot justify the destruction Australian fossil fuels cause at home, in the Pacific region, and around the world.

On behalf of Australia’s future doctors, I urge policy makers to take this policy prescription and act. We are all proud and excited that one day we’ll get to work in one of the finest health care systems in the world. We are full of hope for a cleaner, healthier Australia for our patients, and for our children. We are heartened by the actions of state and local governments that are providing strong political leadership on climate change. But we’re also afraid of what climate change could do to undermine our provision of health care, and the health of our future patients. We see it as part of our professional responsibility to demand that our governments do better. We hope that policy makers also accept their duty of care in this regard.

To our colleagues already in the medical profession: please stand alongside us – medical students, young people — as we demand climate action. Fighting for our future is a heavy burden to bear, and support from our teachers and mentors helps keep us from teetering into disillusionment and despair. We need you to contribute your own power, access and influence; to work with us and one another to hold governments to account.

Young people are gratified to see that Australia’s doctors are speaking out about the climate crisis. The Australian Medical Association’s climate change is a health emergency declaration made the Australian public sit up and take notice. It proved how important doctors’ voices are in this space, and the positive impact you can have. I commend Doctors for the Environment Australia’s petition calling on the federal government to recognise climate change as a public health emergency and to act in accordance with the science.

In years to come, I hope I’ll look back on 2019 as the year that Australia turned a corner on climate change and health. I hope that, after decades of talk and empty promises and policy paralysis, this will be the year that climate action begins in earnest. A clean, healthy future is possible for Australia, but it will require genuine resolve on the part of Australia’s public and policy makers.

Georgia Behrens is a postgraduate medical student at Notre Dame University Sydney, and lead author of the 2018 and 2019 MJA–Lancet Countdown policy briefs. She is the National Student Representative of Doctors for the Environment Australia, and incoming Chair of the Australian Medical Students’ Association’s global health committee. 


Australian climate change inaction threatens lives
  • Strongly agree (61%, 304 Votes)
  • Strongly disagree (25%, 124 Votes)
  • Agree (6%, 31 Votes)
  • Disagree (5%, 24 Votes)
  • Neutral (3%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 499

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54 thoughts on “Future doctors demand climate change action now

  1. Marcus Aylward says:

    “Anyone who wants to make the lives of children in Africa dependent on windmills and solar panels doesn’t really care if they live or die…”
    Clive James

  2. Anonymous says:

    To continue with Voltaire, are the climate catastrophists not making the same mistake as Candide in assuming that we live ‘in the best of all possible worlds’, presumably at the best of all possible temperatures, despite the fact that great variations have been recorded over the millenia predating significant human contributions?

  3. DrPhil says:

    This whole thread seems to be a study on cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias. May I remind people that “expert opinion” is level 4 evidence. vested interests who can’t see beyond the end of the next economic cycle are the biggest problem, that and wilful ignorance.

  4. Dr Roger BURGESS, radiologist says:

    I have been a sceptic of the climate change industry ever since I was shown that sea levels near the heads of Sydney Harbour i.e. open directly to the Pacific Ocean, have not changed since 1911 (see Pinchgut study on sea levels). Also everyone should read the article on axes of planets with regards to their orbits with the sun in today’s Australian,,, far more likely to lead an eventual explanation of their contribution to climate change. Chill out and spare more time with family and friends. There is no denying the fact that the race is hard and long, but, in the end it is with yourself and no-one else. What is wrong with nuclear power fellow scientists? Radiologists live longer than any other medical discipline you worrywarts!

  5. Marianne Cannon says:

    Well done Georgia. Peer reviewed science over more convenient theories must govern our responses. We have much to gain by assuming the peer reviewed consensus is correct and much to lose if we ignore it . Three medical colleges – more to come- have accepted the science, as have most sectors in industry. Economic and health arguments align as others have pointed out . And we have little time.
    When good leaders are proven wrong , and new information enlightens their views , they act accordingly . We need courage and strategy to step up and bring them along – or continue to work around them as stakes are high . “Men argue and nature acts ” Voltaire .

  6. Science & sources says:

    ‘The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says that “renewables are now cheapest energy source”, elaborating: “the Bank believes that renewable energy markets in many of the countries where it invests have reached a stage where the introduction of competitive auctions will lead both to a steep drop in electricity prices and an increase in investment.” [5] The World Bank (World Bank) President Jim Yong Kim agreed on 10 October 2018: “We are required by our by-laws to go with the lowest cost option, and renewables have now come below the cost of [fossil fuels].” [7]

  7. Ex AMA member says:

    The ignorance of medicos knows no bounds… Global Warming is a (false) RELIGION.
    The Global Warming models are consistently WRONG – over predicting temperature rise due to increasing CO2 levels (The data proves them wrong! Global temp is not increasing like the models predict)).
    We are coming out from an interglacial period (ice age). Yes the planet is slowly and gently warming. So What?
    More people die from cold than heat. CO2 is plant food – global crops are at record high levels…
    And even if the global warming science IS settled – China is the problem (At least 10 billion tons of CO2 annually and continuing to increase). Australia is irrelevant (less than 500 million tons annually). Australia’s 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions cannot affect the temperature/climate of planet Earth. Simple science – beyond question.
    Look forward to a great future young doctors!

  8. Marcus Aylward says:

    Cheap power that needs subsidies to be cheap is not cheap.
    And no, even from this blog it is clear that we don’t have general agreement on your last point.

  9. Anonymous says:

    ‘Cheap power’ these days is produced by wind and solar, even Murdoch’s Australian newspaper with its retrograde stand on climate policies regularly admits that, if only in the business section, while calling for extension of ancient but profitable coal-fired power stations in the Inquirer and the news section, not to threaten the climate inaction and the 80 billion dollar business that is Australian mining.
    The critical comments in this section seem to be rather heavy in accusations and claims but rather thin with the scientific sources of their claims that contradict current world-wide scientific teaching and consensus.
    Of course we’ll never find three doctors to agree on the best treatment or even the most accurate diagnosis – and yet, there is such a thing as general agreements e.g. that smoking causes cancer, that air pollution causes 8.8 million premature deaths per year and that more frequent and more severe extreme weather events are not just associated but likely caused by climate change, which in turn is caused predominantly by men burning fossil fuels.

  10. Marcus Aylward says:

    The treatment is worse than the disease.
    The existential threat to humanity is greater from ‘action’ on climate change than from climate change itself.
    300000 people on low-lying Pacific islands may have to emigrate. Bill Gates on his own can supply mosquito netting to protect all those at new risk from mosquito borne diseases – but only if he can still make profits the way he does.
    If you de-industrialize the Western world and developing nations and thereby hobble their economic ability to mitigate the effects of climate change, and simultaneously deny vast sections of the world’s population access to cheap power and everything that flows from that, then that represents a much greater “existential threat”. And everyone assumes that only doom will follow from climate change, excluding the possibility that places like Siberia become the food bowl of the world.
    But we know for many, crocodile tears over the threat to humanity are only a smokescreen: it’s actually about the evils of capitalism and the threat to the virginity of Gaia.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well, there seems to be a consensus here among the doctors who agree on climate change, as there is a 97% consensus among scientists who agree on climate change.
    More broadly in this group?: not so much.
    Bit like scientists too then.
    But then the words ‘science’ and ‘consensus’ have never been natural bedfellows.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The widespread hysteria about climate just confirms what we’ve always known – most people are pretty ordinary at maths, and very few have a good understanding of statistics. Published research in all fields is full of junk stats:

    I’ve taught people doing masters degrees in public health how to critique the published literature, particularity with regard to statistical rigour, and the criteria needed to establish solid cause-and-effect relationships between variables. Using those approaches for climate data, all you get is huge variability in all parameters, and uncertainty compounding uncertainty. Climate is highly variable, poorly understood, and it is impossible to model or forecast more than three days ahead, so there is no scientific basis for any emission reduction policies.

    And by the way, remaining anonymous forces critics to address the argument, and not attack the individual, as simple-minded people like to do.

  13. Dr John Bishop says:

    That the climate is changing is one issue,but since when has the climate not changed over time?What should be regarded as contentious is linking regular natural events eg our summer bushfires with “climate change” when it is a fact that a significant number of fires are deliberately or accidentally lit.
    On another note,all the hand wringing and posturing about CO2,and other factors,eg methane,by climate change crusaders in Australia is unlikely to influence
    the Chinese or Indian governments to change their ways.

  14. Ron Jewell says:

    Georgia, as 70 year old retiring O&G, I totally agree with your comments,
    The famous 18th century French Philosopher had a wonderful aphorism for your situation “It is dangerous to be right where established Authorities are wrong!”
    Many other dishonest arguments are used here – ad hominum – arguing against the person rather than the argument.
    Also – reductio ad absurbum – taking the other person’s argument to a ridiculous extreme and criticising the ridiculous extreme as well as ag ignorantum – why – because I said so.
    But sadly the extreme enemy of change here is the old Latin quip – “Radix Mallorum est cupiditas” -the love of money is the root of all evil.
    I admire your courage Georgia – no one likes people who tell the truth! – look at what happened to Jesus!!

  15. Ulf Steinvorth says:

    …just as it begs the question how much difference all our medical actions and public health measures will make to combat the health hazards of domestic violence, alcohol, obesity, gambling, drink-driving, sugar drinks, fast-foods, lazy lifestyles, drugs and speeding… Add to that our prescriptions (50% of which land in landfill), operations on industry-fuelled lifestyle complications like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and the all-time winner of the futility award, depression and anxiety in the age of loneliness, greed and senselessness…

    Our efforts to combat human suffering and future misery are more than ‘satisfying a vaunting moral ambition to be seen to be doing something’ – they are a genuine effort to alter the outcome of what science has proven to be destructive and damaging patterns. Patterns that are often profitable, empowering and seductive for the chosen few who fuel them, but damaging for the many who suffer from their consequences, mostly innocent family- and community members, children otherwise non-involved individuals.

    Do we measure our medical success by whether we manage to weed out illness or by whether we manage to reduce and prevent suffering?

  16. Ian Hargreaves says:

    I was always taught to be sceptical of research done by those with a vested interest, for example lung cancer research funded by a tobacco company. In the case of climate research done by someone from a climate change institute, climate change university department or similar, my suspicions of bias are raised. That the last massive retreat of the Ice Age glaciers occurred well before we started living in cities and burning coal, makes me question the anthropogenic component. Or, for the wild pre-human climate swings such as the hot Carboniferous or Cretaceous.

    These authors may be quite sincere (many tobacco workers smoke) in their beliefs, but as Israel Folau is often told, being sincere does not make you right. Climate change may not be anthropogenic, and we may not be able to stop or even ameliorate it. Neither by solar panels or prayer, or even by global thermonuclear war and mass extermination of humans.

    The question we could look at from the point of view of the author as a medical student, is how are scientists in general reacting to the issue? From Cambridge to Cairns, universities have often been built on flood plains, typically adjacent to rivers or harbours. Melting of the Greenland ice cap will raise sea levels by several metres, and melting of the Antarctic ice cap will raise sea levels by as much as 60 or 70 m.

    Yet of all the major Australian (or for that matter, global) universities with medical schools, not one has taken the step to move to higher ground. To make matters worse, the University of Tasmania is actually moving to a lower location, from a hillside to a coastal plain. New university medical schools like Deakin in Geelong are being established on coastal land.

    The author’s University of Notre Dame has its Western Australian campus just above sea level in a coastal town, and its Sydney campus a few metres higher, but still doomed when the Antarctic ice sheets melt. Fortunately, there is a subsidiary campus in Lithgow, well above danger from rising seas. The simple answer to comment #38 above is that the University could take effective action by moving all of its students to the Lithgow campus. As Universities are very large employers, shifting their entire staff from the banks of the Torrens or the shores of Port Philip Bay would signal to the general population that they believe in climate change, sincerely enough to act on their beliefs.

    The beauty of my proposed climate action is that it is agnostic to the anthropogenic/ Milankovic cycle/ Orbital variation theories of climate change, and equally effective for all, while non-deleterious in the event of no further global warming. The Cabramurra medical school would also benefit from considerably lower mean temperatures than any capital city. When the poorly-named Central Queensland University (it is on the coastal periphery on my map) moves to Stanthorpe it will be still nowhere near central, but 800m higher, so the academics can rest assured their grandchildren will be safe from malaria or dengue.

    When Cambridge moves to the Cairngorms, or Harvard to the Adirondacks, the world’s populace will realise that the scientists mean what they say.

  17. Anonymous says:

    ….all of which begs the question: what – of all the “action” that we take – will make any difference to the outcome?
    (Apart from satisfying a vaunting moral ambition to be seen to be “doing something about climate change”)

  18. Andrew Taylor-Robinson, Professor of Infectious Disease Immunology, Central Queensland University says:

    On a ‘downstream’ topic of climate change, it is now (almost universally) acknowledged that global warming is instrumental to bringing about alterations in meteorological patterns (including volume and timing of rainfall). This is a phenomenon that is predicted to broaden the distribution of mosquito species that transmit vector-borne diseases to humans, including malaria, dengue and Zika. In the case of Australia, as you point out, the indigenous arbovirus that causes Ross River fever also readily comes to mind.

    Unexpected or extreme weather-associated events often highlight a lack of natural disaster preparedness. In general, an inadequate or inappropriate response impacts heavily on both the exposure and susceptibility of vulnerable populations to neglected tropical diseases that are caused by vector-borne pathogens. Of course, this applies more often in developing countries than it does in more economically affluent nations such as Australia.

    For residents of countries in tropical and subtropical regions that have poorer infrastructure and less resources, climate variables commonly flow through socioeconomic pathways. For example, these can determine the type and standard of buildings people are able to construct, the local availability of insect repellents and a community’s access to affordable, high quality health care. Such multifactorial interactions between wealth and health, or more importantly between socioeconomic factors and vulnerability, will not always play out in a predictable fashion.

    The vulnerability of both vectors and humans to meteorological variables interacts to produce a public health problem that is undoubtedly complex and therefore difficult to address without a holistic view of what may be considered a ‘wicked’ problem (complex in aetiology, frequently nested inside another problem, subject to recursive causal loops and historically resistant to a solution).

  19. Anonymous says:

    A classic case of science vs business, with the Australian government and some commentators obviously too beholden by the profits of the fossil fuel industry to accept the painful message that science has brought us: we have to change our ways to protect current and future generations from harm.
    It was the medical profession that led the charge against tobacco and smoking, against the fierce resistance of big tobacco, it did help to kick the deadly Australian asbestos habit and it shall do so again with Australia’s deadly love-affair with coal and fossil fuels – against the fierce resistance of big fossil fuel and major parties beholden to the mighty billions of those coal barons.

  20. Cate Swannell says:

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Hi Professor Florin. There are 34 comments on the article, including yours. The article is still open to commenters.

  21. Prof Timothy Florin says:

    I cannot see any comments. Is there a good reason for this apparent opaqueness?
    I would love to leave a comment but I would like to be able to see other comments as well

  22. George Crisp says:

    That there are still some in the supposedly enlightened medical community do not accept climate science or trivialise it is extraordinary; when the underlying science is very well understood (it’s simple physics that has been known and tested for 2 centuries), when the observations from around the world unequivocally (that means 100% certain) tell us that global surface temperature has risen by +1C average, and when the science that was able to predict a rise in temperature of this order (as well as data from ancient climates) also tell us that global temperature will continue to rise by 4 – 6 C (average surface temp) if we continue on our current “business as usual” activities – not to mention the several other lines of evidence that are consistent with and support current climate theory.

    The scientists who have expertise in this area and all the peak science organisations are in agreement that this is real (that’s called consensus).

    We would be disappointed and upset – even insulted – if other qualified people outright rejected medical opinion and advice because they didn’t like its implications and suggest that their opinions are equally valid. So how ironic that some us still refuse to accept the advice of experts in these other disciplines.

  23. Dr Andrew Wettenhall says:

    Those not convinced by the science on humans contribution to the current warming should perhaps apply risk management principles such as those we use in treating patients safely.
    What are the chances that the enormous amount of net carbon we add to the atmosphere will not have an effect on the ecology of the planet given our unprecedented and total domination and modification of the ecology of our planet?
    What will continue to worsen if we do nothing? Rising temps for whatever reason, human health, ability to grow food.
    What will worsen if we act on climate change and somehow the substantial body of evidence is incorrect? – Corporate profits and individuals disposable incomes may decline a little probably temporarily.
    You don’t need to be 100% sure to take out an appendix.
    The worst that can happen if we act is we make no difference
    The best that can happen if don’t act, is a relatively rapid deterioration in human health span and the quality of societies across the globe. Its already happening!

  24. Marcus Aylward says:

    Dear Doctors,
    Could you please outline the therapy that you propose, the expected course of recovery, the likely side effects, and the end-point for judging the success of the treatment?

  25. John Iser says:

    Well done Georgia for alerting the medical profession to the adverse effects of climate change on our health, as assessed by climate and health experts throughout Australia and the world.

  26. Mitchell Smith says:

    Good to see more comments with sense flowing through – and less personal attacks on a young woman student.
    Georgia – those being denialist about your article “..don’t bode well for the current status of medicine, and the medical workforce…” (see Comment 1). If they’re doctors, I’d be concerned about the currency of their medical practice, given some don’t believe in science from the best experts on the planet.
    Who knows more – the Lancet Commission, or Allan Jones?

  27. Dr Liz Bashford says:

    Great article Georgia, and you have good cause to be infuriated.

    It beggars belief that the federal government continues to allow emissions to rise and is unprepared for the climate crises, despite twenty+ years of dire warnings that are tragically becoming reality. It’s only by persistent action by people such as yourself that we can shift the fossilised beliefs in government (and sadly, old doctors who should know better).

    Our changing climate is an unfolding public health emergency that should have been addressed twenty years ago. It’s the great shame of my generation. Time for us to unite and demand effective action.

  28. Joe Kosterich says:

    Here is an idea. Future doctors can throw away their smart phones and refuse to switch on air conditioning.- for starters. They are free to live in caves if they want. Meanwhile fires are so new in Australia that some trees actually need it to germinate. Wonder how these trees have been around for millions of years. A cursory glance at historical reports show that severe fire is not new. If these are particularly bad compared to the last 30 years then it is a function of increased fuel load caused by… green policy. Even if we accept that the planet may be 0.1 degree warmer in 100 years- the doomsday prophesies about life ending have NO scientific basis. And as to why some people choose anonymity when daring to question climate alarmism, it is because those who do can expect a torrent of vicious abuse including racist, agist and sexist attacks.

  29. John Van Der kallen says:

    Well done Georgia Behrens. Having just returned from the Upper Hunter with watering eyes and a hoarse throat, where the air pollution from coalmines has resulted in over 600 air pollution alerts this year, it is hard to see how the mining and burning of fossil fuels have not caused health impacts. Hearing the stories from the local community about having to take their kids to the emergency department with asthma and then go home and clean the coal dust off the window sill makes me disgusted that people, let alone doctors would defend this industry. Listening to the farmers who have done their back burning for decades and now see “firestorms” burn down their neighbour’s house, it is impossible to say that climate heating due to human activity is not affecting our health. For those of you who don’t get it – time to wake up.

  30. Katherine Barraclough says:

    I agree with you Graeme – although find many of these comments a little frightening as well as sad. What will it take for the denial and ideology to shift? I also stand with you Georgia. Luckily the majority of doctors and Australians do too, and we dont need the laggards to be convinced for change to happen. Once we reach that critical mass of people asking and pushing for it, the momentum will not be slowed by those at the edge of the bell curve.

  31. Ulf Steinvorth says:

    If our self-declared ‘Boomers’ quote Murdoch’s Australian in this scientific journal as the reputable source for their misinformation – well say no more, boomer… and let’s get back to science. Thanks for a timely article reminding us that sometimes costly interventions have to take place to prevent even more costly consequences – like asbestos, smoking or road safety.

  32. Dr. ARC says:

    Everyone is missing the point! What do you think you can do about Climate? There are many scientists who have debunked the CO2 theory and Al Gore’s J-curve as pure bunkum. I have stated before that you can do absolutely nothing about climate the same as you can do nothing about the twice daily tidal changes.
    The brain washing continues by highly paid, so called climate scientists in Canberra and elsewhere.
    If it’s too hot in the northern parts of Australia, move south to Victoria. It has been well below normal temperatures here for many months and the occasional warm day is more than welcome.
    Australia is a sunburnt country with fires and flooded plains. Nothing has changed for millennia except, lowered CO2 levels and less volcanic activity.

  33. Graeme McLeay MBBS FANZCA, 73 Retired (OWM) says:

    It is sad to see professional people whom you might expect are able to look at the evidence objectively stuck in a state of denial over climate change. They have so little respect for the vast majority of climate scientists that they are unwilling to look at the overwhelming evidence. Life and death decisions are made every day by doctors on evidence which is less convincing than the evidence for global heating and its impacts.
    What ever happened to the precautionary principle.
    Good article, thank you Georgia.

  34. Kingsley Faulkner says:

    Thank you Georgia for your courage and concern, writing as a young doctor facing an uncertain future on a planet in peril still shackled by leaders in denial.Leaders have a duty of care towards the people they serve and on climate change they continue to fail.Your concerns are supported not only by climate scientists and fire fighters but also by increasing numbers of farmers, local governments, insurers and corporate leaders of vision who see a very hazardous future if business as usual prevails.Australia has the human and natural resources to lead and help meet this global challenge.History will judge our country harshly if it fails to do so.

  35. Dr Nicole Sleeman says:

    Great article. All health professionals need to be up to date with the health impacts of climate change and the relationship between the health of the environment and ecosystem within which we exist. Failure to understand that human health is intimately related to ecosystem health is failure to understand health. This is both science and common sense.

  36. Unfazed Boomer says:

    Sorry Georgia, when even Peter van Onselen, a believer, is not onboard (Nov 16, The Australian), you have a struggle: “the self-reinforcing scepticism towards scientific experts on climate change grows when activists overstate their case”; and, “One reason some Australians are disinclined to answer the call to do more on climate change is because reversing its effects could be nothing but a pipe dream. In other words, spending money trying to stop further climate change may be a lost cause. This is something public policymakers need to consider in the context of what the experts tell us. Even if you accept the science is real and the effects are profound, it’s a leap to then believe we can stop it”.
    As for: “At each major climate strike this year, hundreds of medical students marched in scrubs and stethoscopes, calling for action to protect the health of people and our planet”, I am reminded of Christopher Hitchens – “…I am bored by the idea of the [x] March, that asks to be taken at face value and demands to be called by a name that it can’t live up to. This is self-sustaining but pointless publicity, and it evaporates in less than the time of the average news cycle. It is staged for the vain ambition of attracting media attention, and it also suggests the repulsive idea that there is safety in numbers. This might be true for some ephemeral causes, but is emphatically not true of any important idea”(2003).

  37. Helen Redmond says:

    I stand with you Georgia, and so do the vast majority if you look at the poll.
    Health professionals of all types are talking about climate change over their lunch and to their patients. I am witnessing this daily. From a niche topic a couple of years ago it has become mainstream conversation. Our patients see it too. Only those afflicted by denial (mostly caused by ideology, it is nothing to do with intelligence or information) post contrary comments here. Keep up the great work.

  38. Anonymous says:

    John Graham – your argument is hard to follow, but i see you are quickly writing off NASA’s work as ‘unscientific’ from reading a couple of paragraphs? Lord help us.

  39. John Graham says:

    Hi George, I took your advice and started to read the NASA article which I thought would be accurate and fair minded. On the first page , to impress I suppose , was global temp now up 1.9 degrees F since 1880 ( not really catastrophic) but then 18 out of 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001! What do you expect if the world is warming after a mini ice age . With warming to a higher temperature than before, the hottest years are the later years. Then there is ‘on record’ which really means since we started measuring 100-200 years ago. Presumably the entire Holocene period which preceded this and was much hotter was not allowed as an ancestors did not leave the required records. I will in time read more but it does not look very promising as a scientific report.
    Probably the best thing to do is actually have in Australia a serious scientific debate with all the issues discussed as the scientific ‘consensus’ is wearing thin and according to the last elections a lot of people in Australia do not believe in it. A lot of alarmists will not debate any thing because the science is ‘settled’. Luckily Einstein and Bohr did not have the same view and look what happened and they were up against Newton. Science is a process of constant change.

  40. Greg Heron says:

    OMG !
    The greenies caused the bushfires !
    What a load of rubbish.
    Read this.

  41. David King says:

    It’s heartening to see that the ‘self-interest’ motivation in our young doctors and students is aligned with caring for the planet, rather than the self-interest of my generation in protecting our privileged, economic position with ‘business as usual’. Watch out dinosaurs, the AMA members of the future are these students and young doctors.

  42. Richard Yin says:

    Couldn’t agree more with Georgia’s sentiments, we need to act now and prepare for climate change impacts on health and have a comprehensive climate change and health plan.
    The health sector needs to step up and call for urgent action. To not demand action and allow for policy inaction is to abdicate our responsibility as health advocates. Being under-prepared as the recent fires have shown, threatens future health.
    Given the consensus of scientific evidence on climate change, the topic should not be being debated in this journal.

  43. Anonymous says:

    In the 50s, we burnt off every year; low fuel loads. low temp , low speed fires. The insects, birds, animals survived. there was native tree regeneration as seeds required fire to germinate. Now the blinkered few prevent this and total destruction occurs. If science was taught properly, the present generation of medical students would learn they are believing in an unproven theory as if were true. Would have failed in my day if I did this. In the early days on earth when the CO2 was at 70% of atmosphere, the earth was no warmer. Mars CO2 at 97% with no climate warming!

  44. Concerned Millennial says:

    To all these comments about ‘medicine is not in safe hands’ and ‘anthropogenic climate change is a myth’… OK Boomers

  45. Anonymous says:

    Dr O Coltman makes some interesting claims in the age of evidence-based-medicine, with the evidence of his own views and observations outweighing scientific research because he doesn’t agree with published findings. Thankfully our new generation of medics is no longer beholden to such self-proclaimed experts of everything who brandish their titles and throw their weight around trying to stop uncomfortable scientific findings from changing dangerous practice. By the way, a brief internet and AHPRA search does not give any indication of Dr O Coltman’s background – maybe a sign of the occult nature of the claims?

  46. George Crisp says:

    To all those who claim that the science of climate change is either unproven or false, I’d point you to a couple of really good resources produced by the world’s peak science organisations.

    The oldest science organisation, The Royal Society, produced this to answer these questions:

    Australia’s CSIRO published this Q and A “Is the science settled”

    NASA has a while section on this, with explanations, news and features:

    If you have particular questions, the SkepticalScience site has the answers

    Happy reading

  47. Steve sonneveld says:

    Tend to agree with The aboriginal and John Graham. Rather listen to old and wise. Yes I am an older white male with similar qualifications to the Aboriginal.

  48. The Aboriginal says:

    I am sad to see the brainwashing of the younger generation. The so-called link between CO2 and climate change is in fact unproven and unprovable. The so-called 11,000 scientists included such notables as Prof Mickey Mouse and Prof Aardvark , head of faculty of a UK University which does not in fact exist. I have watched my local tidal range for 70 decades and sea level height has not changed, nor has it changed in Sydney Harbour and a tidal lake I have observed in Queensland for 40 years. The reason fires are more severe is because well meaning but stupid greens local councils have imposed draconian penalties on householders for taking reasonable fire precautions , or even taking precautions about a branch which may fall through the roof of your house.
    The aboriginal people patch burned the bush for millenia to the point where some eucalypts, banksias and melaleucas cannot germinate without their seeds being cracked by fire.
    In my day we had to study Physics 101, which included the GAS Laws and I am appalled at the eager acceptance of views which, in my opinion are unproven and, in strictly Popperian terms, unproveable. Yes I am an old man, but I have watched the effects of quite a few fads and fancies, and helped pick up the woundedwhen another millennial theory bites the dust. O. McK. Coltman, MB.BS FRCOG FRANZCOG. Foundation Dean of The Geelong Hospital Medical School.

  49. John Graham says:

    Yes ,the earth is warming yet again as it has done before with a peak this interglacial period of about 8000 years ago. Oddly enough it reached a current high level in 2016 and is now lower if you measure global average tropospheric temperature which is were green house warming happens. Australian local temperature may well be hotter than other parts of the world but other regions are having very cold weather too. Some experts say this time the warming is due to CO2 . I doubt that but let’s go along with it although I note China, India, Russia and the USA do not and so a large number of people will burn coal anyway. I am constantly hearing of outrage against the Australian people with a litany of demands. If you are for real and this is an emergency and you want to shut down coal then you have no option other than to push for immediate nuclear base power and that is where your efforts should be . When you accomplish that then you may have some effect on CO2 as presumably world coal reserves will be less with Australian coal out of the picture. In any event we will have reserves to burn when the next ice age starts which can happen in as little as a decade, like the Younger Dryas 12000 years ago, and is now due. Incidentally Homo Sapiens has survived ice ages and flourished in the interglacial periods with hotter temperatures than now but our biggest problem has always been getting along with ourselves.

  50. Graeme Banks says:

    When will we have a National Debate to assess this climate theory?
    It may help our young elitist friends be more realistic.

  51. Adrian Skidmore says:

    Thank you Georgia for a beautiful thought provoking statement. Totally agree with you . As others have stated , Australia has an incredibly opportunity in leading the world in renewable energy with our sun exposure , wind channeling abilities and massive potential for lithium and other rare metal exports.
    And of course we have a massive effect on contributing to global warming with our coal and gas exports .
    All doctors concerned about our patients health need to support climate action and wake up our federal politicians ! It’s not just global warming harming our patients , local pollution creates alarming health issues apart from lower IQ in children and early senile dementia ( maybe that’s affected the climate deniers )
    Ps: China and India are moving into renewable energy and leaving us behind, hopefully soon we won’t have anywhere to send our coal . Just look at plans to send electricity to Indonesia from Northern Territory sun farms .

  52. George Crisp says:

    Would be really interesting if this poll also included demographic information – gender and age especially.

    It is no secret that climate science refusal is highly associated with conservative older white men….

  53. George Crisp says:

    Note the ‘Anonymous’ comments. Why do those who reject science feel so often they have to hide their identity?

  54. Anonymous says:

    If there were humans on the Earth before the prior two ice ages, I’m sure they would have said the same thing. Climate change is inevitable and we have nothing to do with it and nothing we can do will stop it!

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