Australia’s highest profile medics and health experts have penned an open letter to our Prime Minister appealing to him to reinstate climate change onto the agenda for the G20 meeting in Brisbane later this year.

The likes of Peter Doherty, Gustav Nossal and Fiona Stanley have warned of serious health consequences as a result of climate change and that the issue must not be ignored at such an important global forum.

“Current climate trends, driven by global warming, threaten the basis of future economic prosperity, regional political stability and human health”, they said in their letter first published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

“As concern rises in many countries, including increasing awareness of the risks to human health and safety, many G20 members are strengthening their commitment to substantive mitigation action. The new United States regulations limiting coal-fired power plant emissions are explicitly linked to the protection of health. Meanwhile, if Australia passes up opportunities for new energy technologies and efficiencies, we will forfeit gains in long-term economic security and fail to contribute fairly to reducing worldwide risks to human health.“ The letter has been released as the renewable energy industry nervously awaits the government’s decision on the target which supports the country’s shift away from polluting sources of energy.

“There are serious risks from climate change to the health of populations everywhere”, the letter warns. The risks include, but extend well beyond, intensified heatwaves, floods, fires and the spread of disease-bearing mosquitoes. Regional food yields and hence child and adult nutrition are at risk. Water shortages threaten the quantity and quality of drinking water, hygiene and agriculture. Warming and acidification of oceans endanger marine food sources. Infections such as gastroenteritis increase with warming, as do levels of important hazardous air pollutants. Threats to rural and coastal assets and livelihoods will adversely affect mental health.”

“Adverse health outcomes related to climate change are already evident in many regions of the world. By mid century, serious health risks are likely to be widespread, particularly in vulnerable communities, including in Australia. Workloads and economic and logistical demands on the nation’s health system will also rise as these impacts increase.

‘In the long run, the harm to human health from climate change is more than an avoidable burden of suffering, injury, illness and premature death. It signals that our mismanagement of the world’s climate and environment is weakening the foundations of health and longevity.

“This issue warrants urgent consideration at the G20 meeting. The health of present and future generations is at risk from ongoing human-induced climate change.” US President Obama has also expressed his dismay that Australia is blocking discussion of such critical issues at the up coming leadership meeting.

Tracey Carpenter is President of the Bathurst Community Climate Action Network