As an Adelaide doctor, I am seeing the health impacts of climate change in my work. I see the impacts that floods, storms and extreme weather events have on my patients' health and their ability to access health care. I see impacts on pregnancy, increased asthma and hayfever and most obviously, impacts on my patients mental health.
It is a rare day that one of my patients does not express their concern about climate change to me, and I increasingly see young people choosing to remain childless because of the climate crisis.
This summer as the weather gets hotter, I expect to see people suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. When the next heat wave inevitably comes I know that my patients will have an increased risk of heart attack, strokes and kidney failure.
Heatwaves are Australia's most deadly natural disaster and as our planet gets hotter the intensity of heat waves is increasing, placing the health of our communities at risk. From a medical perspective, the Tour Down Under is a very risky event due to heat exposure.
Fossil fuels, such as gas, petroleum and coal, are not just the main cause of climate change, they are having other devastating effects on our health that have been ignored for too long.
But while tobacco companies are banned from sponsoring organisations and events, fossil fuel companies continue to use our beloved sports and cultural organisations to bolster their reputations.
This January we celebrate the Tour Down Under, a cycling event that showcases our beautiful state to the world. But, as a doctor, I cannot celebrate Santos' sponsorship.
Its main product, gas, is a source of hazardous chemicals in the home that have been linked to cancer and asthma.
Gas is mainly methane - that traps 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Ending gas extraction is one of the most powerful short term actions we can take to reduce global warming. In fact, Australia just agreed to reduce methane by 30 per cent in the next seven years.
Despite this, the council ratepayers of Adelaide gave $125,000 to this year's Santos Tour Down Under.
So why is South Australia still allowing a fossil fuel company to leverage a key sporting event to promote its brand?
And it's not just cycling. Port Adelaide is sponsored by Australia's largest greenhouse producer, AGL. Australian Gas Networks sponsors the Adelaide Strikers.
And it's not just sport. Our Royal Flying Doctor Service promotes oil and gas giants Beach Energy and Senex Energy. BHP sponsors the Art Gallery of South Australia. Ironically, Santos sponsors the Nature Foundation and Adelaide Koala Rescue.
These sponsorships are helping fossil fuel companies pretend they are good corporate citizens. They are providing a reputational fig leaf for our most polluting companies to hide behind while they damage our health, environment and climate.
France has banned fossil fuel advertising. The ACT has banned fossil fuel ads on its trams, and 10 Australian councils, including Sydney, have supported the Fossil Ad Ban campaign to prevent fossil fuel ads and sponsorships on community land. The South Australian government, our local councils and organisations, however, are just seeing dollar signs and ignoring the long-term consequences.
South Australia has a proud history of taking the lead on clean energy, but to have a healthy climate we must also clean our health, sport, arts and community organisations from the influence of fossil fuels.
Climate change is affecting the health of South Australians now and these effects will only get worse as global warming increases. It is unconscionable that Santos, and other fossil fuel companies, are allowed to peddle their destructive products by sponsoring sporting and cultural events.
The City of Adelaide and our state government have declared a climate emergency. It is time for them to back up this statement and ban fossil sponsorship of the Tour Down Under.
- Dr Kate Wylie chairs the RACGP's Climate and Environmental Special Interest Group, and is a board member of Doctors for the Environment Australia.