As world leaders gear up to meet in Glasgow in November for the UN climate summit billed as the most significant since the 2015 Paris Agreement, doctors have penned an open letter to Australia's Prime Minister warning he must lift the nation's commitment to the global effort to save lives and protect health.
The open letter, signed by the Australian Medical Association, Doctors for the Environment Australia and 10 medical colleges, calls on Scott Morrison to commit to science-based targets for cutting Australia's emissions this decade.
"As doctors, we understand the imminent health threats posed by climate change and have seen them already emerge in Australia," the letter states.
"The 2019-2020 bushfire season in Australia saw parts of the country afflicted by the poorest air quality in the world, with large numbers of the population enduring weeks of bushfire smoke and the related adverse health impacts. That climate disaster also tragically took more than 30 lives as a direct result of the fires.
"Since then, we have seen the stark impacts of extreme weather events playing out in the northern hemisphere in 2021. Flooding, fires and heatwaves not only have immediate health risks, but also come with the longer-term physical, economic and mental impacts of displacement, loss of life and loss of livelihoods."
They called for policies that accelerate the transition to renewable energy and acknowledge its health benefits, and plan to increase Australia's commitments to the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Doctors for the Environment Australia chair John Van Der Kallen said doctors were already dealing with the reality of climate change in their surgeries and in emergency departments.
"Failure to act urgently on climate change risks unmanageable threats to the health of all Australians," Dr Van Der Kallen said.
AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said, "the government must urgently act to significantly reduce emissions this decade. Severe fires, superstorms and floods have arrived and are destroying lives".
The organisation's ACT branch is also rolling out a campaign urging patients to speak to their GP about managing their health in response to rising temperatures and increasing natural disasters.
It comes in the wake of the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which found that without "immediate, rapid and large-scale" cuts to record high levels of greenhouse gas emissions then hopes of containing global warming to even 2 degrees would be "beyond reach".
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