News & Media News & Media Dr Beau Frigault: Albo’s opportunity on climate and health

Dr Beau Frigault: Albo’s opportunity on climate and health

Dr Beau Frigault: Albo’s opportunity on climate and health

Queensland Chair of DEA Dr Beau Frigault has written an op-ed in the Gold Coast Bulletin.

For years, I like many colleagues have been increasingly worried about the health of our patients as we experience more extreme weather and a changing climate. We’re also worried about the impact on our health system, already strained by the pandemic.

When I see unseasonal extreme wet weather reports, I think of the infectious diseases sure to spread. I worry about the increase in the number of mosquitos and what this will mean for the spread of Ross River virus and Dengue Fever, infections we never used to worry about on the Gold Coast.

When I see record temperatures in the weather forecast, I am reminded again that extreme heat is one of the deadliest consequences of climate change. I anticipate the increased pressure on our health system as my colleagues and I treat patients, in my case pregnant women and the elderly for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“During the Black Summer, as fires burned across Australia, I worried about the immediate risk to the health and safety of people near the raging fires.” ~ Dr Beau Frigault

Pollutants from bushfires also affect air quality up to thousands of kilometres away from their source. This has been linked to increased mortality rates and increased out-of-hospital cardiac arrests on high bushfire smoke days in cities. And just a few months ago, as those of us on the Gold Coast braced for heavy rain and flash flooding watched other parts of the state and NSW experience disastrous and devastating flooding.

I was again thinking about just how much climate change was affecting the health and safety of all Australians. In all of these events, I think about the mental health of people living in affected communities as they deal with the devastation that they have experienced.

Bushfires and floods have significant psychological impacts. Those who have lost loved ones, homes, pets, livestock and livelihoods can experience depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite all of this, right now doctors like me see a huge opportunity to move towards a carbon neutral energy industry and secure the health of all Australians well into the future.

After a decade of inaction from political leaders, voters across the country supported candidates calling for stronger action on climate than Australia has previously taken.

While LNP members representing the Gold Coast kept their seats, there were swings against them in Forde, Fadden, Moncrieff and McPherson. Voters across the country said climate change was one of the most important issues.

The new government has committed to stronger emissions reductions this decade, which will reduce the health impacts of climate change for all.

But the science tells us we need to go further, and it’s clear voters on the Gold Coast and nationally want their government to be ambitious.

What we urgently need is for the incoming government to commit to even greater cuts this decade to keep our climate safe. The government must embrace renewable energy instead of coal or gas projects. It’s getting cheaper by the day and will create a safer, less polluted environment, plus create jobs.

Stronger action on the climate will keep us safer and healthier. Queenslanders have shown that this is what they want. I hope our leaders are listening.

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