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A major global study on life expectancy has found that a child born today, whether in Melbourne or Mumbai, faces multiple and lifelong damages from climate change, growing up in a warmer world with risks of food shortages. , infectious diseases, floods and extreme heat.
Climate change is already harming people's health by increasing the number of extreme weather events and exacerbating air pollution, according to the study published in the UK medical journal The Lancet.
Reuters reported that the study said that if nothing was done to mitigate climate change, its impacts could burden an entire generation with disease and illness throughout their lives.
The findings related to Australia were tracked and published by the Medical Journal of Australia and are highly critical of the current position of the conservative Liberal-National federal government.
These aspects of the study show that the federal government's lack of commitment to health and climate change has left Australians at significant risk of illness from heat, fires and extreme weather events, and urgent national action is required to prevent injuries and deaths and thus increase life expectancy.
"Children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of a changing climate," said Dr. Nick Watts, who co-led The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change study.
"Their bodies and immune systems are still developing, leaving them more susceptible to disease and environmental pollutants," said Dr. Watts.
He warned that damage to health in early childhood was "persistent and pervasive," with lifelong consequences.
"Without immediate action by all countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, gains in well-being and life expectancy will be compromised, and climate change will define the health of an entire generation," he said at a conference. press in London.
However, introducing policies to limit emissions and limit global warming would see a different outcome, the research teams said.
In that scenario, a child born today would see the end of coal use in Britain, for example, on their sixth birthday, and the world would reach net zero emissions by the time they turn 31.
Australia was evaluated in 31 indicators divided into five main sections: impacts of climate change, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation, planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; finance and economics; and public and political commitment.
The report found that while some progress had been made at the state and local government level, “the Australian federal parliament remains unengaged with health and climate change, and Australia performs poorly on many of the indicators compared to other developed countries ”; for example, it is one of the world's largest net exporters of coal and its electricity generation from low-carbon sources is low. "
"We also find an increasing exposure of Australians to heat waves and, in most states and territories, suicide rates continue to rise at higher temperatures," wrote the authors, led by Associate Professor Paul Beggs of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Macquarie University.
“As a direct result of this failure, we conclude that Australia remains at significant risk of declining health due to climate change, affecting the life expectancy of the population and that substantial and sustained national action is urgently required to prevent this. This work is urgent ”.
Doctors for the Environment Australia spokesperson Dr Arnagretta Hunter agreed that Australia was ill-prepared for the health challenge of climate change.
"Australian doctors are already seeing multiple health effects from climate change," said Dr. Hunter, a cardiologist.
In 2019, the Australian Medical Association, Physicians for the Environment Australia, and the World Medical Association recognized climate change as a health emergency.
Dr Ingrid Johnston, Senior Policy Officer at the Australian Public Health Association, said that the priorities of the fossil fuel industry had gotten ahead of the health of Australians.
"No one can deny that climate change poses significant immediate, medium and long-term risks to the health of Australians and communities around the world," he said.
And yet the government seems to believe that climate change is not a conventional health problem. This is tragically wrong. The problems cannot be isolated ”.
He called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to issue a statement unequivocally recognizing the link between climate change and health.
Dr Johnston said the Public Health Association of Australia wanted a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) health and climate change forum comprised of ministers responsible for health, environment, energy and other portfolios.
Reuters reports that the Lancet study is a collaboration of 120 experts from 35 institutions, including the World Health Organization, the World Bank, University College London and Tsinghua University of China.
On a "business as usual" path, with little action to limit climate change, he found that amid rising temperatures and extreme weather events, children would be vulnerable to malnutrition and rising food prices. food, and those most prone to warmer waters and climates that accelerate the spread of infectious diseases such as dengue and cholera.
According to the researchers, one of the most immediate and long-lasting health threats from climate change was air pollution.
They called for urgent measures to reduce indoor and outdoor pollution through the introduction of cleaner fuels and vehicles, and policies to encourage safe and active transportation, such as walking and cycling.
The WHO said that globally in 2016, seven million deaths were due to the effects of air pollution in the home and the environment. The vast majority of these were in low- and middle-income countries.
"If we want to protect our children, we have to make sure the air they breathe is not toxic," said Dr Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson, a global health specialist at the University of Sussex in Britain, who worked on the Lancet study.