News & Media Opinion Pieces Good News for Research into the Health Impacts of Climate Change

Good News for Research into the Health Impacts of Climate Change


Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change and Water;
The Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing;
Senator the Hon Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
27 January 2008


Australia’s top research institutions are turning their attention to the human health impacts of climate change, and the strategies Australia will need to reduce the risks.

The Australian Government’s National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the CSIRO have identified health and climate change as a strategic priority for research, and $10 million is being provided to fund the effort.

Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, said Australia faced enormous health risks from climate change, ranging from greater incidences of infectious diseases, and an increase in bushfire-related injuries, to more heat-related death and illness.

“By 2020, for example, the number of heat-related deaths in our capital cities is projected to double to about 2300 a year; we are likely to see more food-safety related illness; and dengue fever is likely to spread southwards,” Senator Wong said.

“We need to better understand the diversity of these health risks, who will be most vulnerable, and the action governments, individuals and communities can take to reduce the risks.”

Senator Wong released Human Health and Climate Change – a National Adaptation Research Plan in Cairns today, on the first leg of a tour to speak with stakeholders and communities about the Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The tour will this week also take in Gladstone and Biloela.

Human Health and Climate Change – a National Adaptation Research Plan was developed by the Government’s National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, which sets out Australia’s research priorities over the next five to seven years.

It will focus on the key areas of heat, extreme weather, vector-borne disease, mental health, health care, food safety, and the factors that influence risk.

Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, said that for the first time the NHMRC had declared health and climate change a priority in its funding guidelines and the Government was providing $6 million to fund the research.

“Australia’s scientific and research community is making an important contribution to domestic and international understanding of climate change and its impacts.

“However research on health impacts, risks and adaptation strategies is in its early stages and the NHMRC will be looking to the top minds in the private, university and government sectors to deliver on the priorities outlined in the Government’s National Adaptation Health Research Plan.

“This information is critical to inform future policy making in the health arena and in a broader range of areas, including urban planning and disaster management.”

The CSIRO Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship will establish a ‘Collaboration Cluster on Urbanism, Climate Adaptation and Health’ to develop ways to reduce the impact of climate change on the health of Australia’s urban populations.

The Australian National University’s (ANU) National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health and University of Queensland’s School of Integrative Biology have been selected to lead the three-year, $4 million Collaboration Cluster, in partnership with CSIRO.

The Cluster’s research program will focus on heat stress, food security and safety, air quality, and the changing risk posed by vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever due to climate change.

Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, said the coordinated research effort would develop strategies to deal with the risks to the health of Australians from climate change.

“We must turn our attention to this issue now to minimise the impacts on our children and future generations,” Senator Carr said.

Speaking at James Cook University Cairns Campus today, Member for Leichhardt, Jim Turnour said: “Cairns is currently battling a dengue fever outbreak and there is a definite need to fund research into the health risks posed by climate change to regions like the Tropical North.”

Human Health and Climate Change – a National Adaptation Research Plan is available at NHMRC funding guidelines are available at Further information on the CSIRO Collaboration Cluster is available at