“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”
This quote from the Lancet-University College of London Commission report on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change is a statement that inspired me to tackle the issue of climate change and health when I started studying medicine in 2010. I decided to study medicine because I have a passion for global health and so it was a fairly obvious progression that I began working on the “biggest global health threat”.
Six years on from this powerful report, the Lancet-UCL Commission is releasing a second report. This report goes beyond the scope of the 2009 report by discussing policy responses and their impacts on public health. The Commission is a true multi-disciplinary team, consisting of climate scientists, health professionals, economists, social and political scientists, development experts, engineers and energy experts.
This report is being released at a pivotal time on the road to securing a safe planet. Negotiations are taking place this year, working towards a new agreement on a global strategy to keep global warming to a safe limit. These negotiations are to be finalised at the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris this December. Momentum for Paris is building and the recent G7 announcement gives hope for a strong commitment.
Australia is still yet to announce its own commitment towards the collective goal of phasing out fossil fuels, but based on reports from the Climate Change Authority and the Climate Institute, we know it should be at least a 40% reduction from 2000 emission levels by 2025 and a 60% reduction by 2030, with a long-term goal of a 95% reduction by 2050.
As the future medical professionals of Australia, it is our duty to advocate for the health of our future patients. Decisions made now and in the next few years will affect the health outcomes of Australians and citizens around the world for decades to come.
This is why we have been encouraging medical students around the country to meet with their MPs with two key messages:
We are using the launch of the new Lancet Commission report as an opportunity to engage medical students and the wider community. Our approach is an online week of social media action, with blog posts, videos and a webinar series, run by doctors who have incorporated environmental action into their medical careers. Our online events mean that all of our materials are not only accessible to medical students and the wider community across Australia, but also medical students across the globe.
I'll be cycling to the event from my house in Somerset, Tasmania, catching the Spirit of Tasmania from Devonport.
We are but a small group of passionate young medical students, but with our action-packed week of social media buzz, we aim to reach out to a much larger number. Join us in our week of online action by liking and sharing our blog posts and videos and talking to your own spheres of influence about the need to act on climate change to safeguard the health of current and future Australians.
Alice McGushin is a final year medical student at University of Tasmania, Climate Reality Leader trained in 2014 and Australian Medical Students’ Association Code Green co-National Project Manager.
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm