Newcastle-based rheumatologist and Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia Dr John Van Der Kallen was interviewed by Croakey about the IPCC report and the once in 1000 year flooding that is occurring in parts of Australia in recent weeks.
The recent release of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report coinciding with the floods in Queensland and New South Wales has reminded us of the urgency that we need to take to protect ourselves against the health impacts of climate change.
Already we are seeing significant health impacts with 3,000 deaths per year from heat-related illness in Australia and this is expected to worsen. Tragically, we have had nine deaths from flood related emergencies this week alone in Queensland and a further four deaths reported so far in News South Wales.
GPs and members of Doctors for the Environment will be at the forefront of the clean up as they try to support their patients who may have lost everything in the disaster, including their loved ones.
This is not something doctors look forward to in their work. It is emotionally confronting and taxing for all GP’s dealing with their patient’s losses. How can we help? What can we do to lessen the burden on those faced with the clean-up and for those who lost loved ones and pets, their grief?
“There are no easy answers to these questions and much of what we have to offer is only hope and human resilience in the face of disaster; however, we will be doing what we can to support our patients.”
~ Dr John Van Der Kallen
But one way Australian leaders and governments can help is to protect our environment and speed up how we address climate change in our policies and legislation.
We are now seeing that climate change and the burning of fossil fuels are affecting our everyday health. Australia needs to take a lead. Unlike most OECD countries, Australia has not increased its 2030 emission reduction targets.
Despite recent Federal Government information, Australia is not doing enough to reduce its emissions. Recent years have seen a slowdown in emission reductions. From 2007 to 2014 there was a 15.2 percent decline in Australia’s emission but from 2014 to 2021 there was only an 8.9 percent decline.