A summit of “appalled and frightened” Australian doctors have declared a climate emergency, urging governments at all levels to end “destructive, self-harming practices” endangering the health of humans and the planet.
Doctors for the Environment Australia issued the call to arms at a weekend conference in Hobart on the intersection of environment and health, traversing terrain including sustainability, urban planning, ecology, climate economics, Indigenous land management, mental health and non-communicable disease.
Conference convenor Kristine Barnden said the emergency declaration reflected a duty of care by medical professionals to “care for human health and alleviate suffering”:
Human impact on the planet is now threatening the life support systems that we all depend on. Multiple scientific studies show a decline in many critical areas, such as biodiversity loss and declining fresh water availability on which our health and survival depends.
We cannot be silent and watch governments continue to dismiss the threat posed by climate change and unhealthy environments to the health of their people.
We are familiar with dealing with emergencies and know that disaster can be averted when emergencies are recognised early, and when the response is prompt.
We know that pretending an emergency isn’t happening, or giving inappropriate or inadequate treatment, can only end in disaster.
Barnden said doctors would be on the frontlines, with more severe and frequent extreme weather events, increased allergic, infectious and respiratory disease and global food shortages all posing a risk to health:
Knowing that climate change constitutes a public health crisis, knowing that solutions are available, knowing that we only have a short time to act to prevent run away climate change, doctors are appalled and frightened by the ongoing refusal of politicians to take necessary action.
We must recognise climate change for the emergency that it is.
— DrsForTheEnvironment (@DocsEnvAus) April 7, 2019
Welcome delegates and speakers meeting for the second day of #iDEA19. The reason doctors call an emergency is to focus energy and expertise. We have reached that on a planetary level. #Doctors’ hopeful message: urgent #ActionOnClimate @EAHD @croakey pic.twitter.com/hfsBVcjHNZ
— DrsForTheEnvironment (@DocsEnvAus) April 5, 2019
Keeping the lights on
The emergency declaration was made during DEA’s annual conference, #iDEA19, bringing together medical professionals and students on the human health impacts of the environment and climate change. Themed ‘Keeping the Lights On’, the forum featured keynote speakers including acclaimed author Richard Flanagan.
We’ve clipped some of the Twitter highlights below, with thanks to all who participated in what looked like robust and informative discussions.