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Australian government under pressure to put climate change on G20 agenda

Australian Government

Australia is under growing pressure to include climate change on the G20 agenda. Creative Commons: Mosman Council, 2009

The Australian government is coming under increasing pressure over its abandonment of meaningful climate action, with an open letter from 12 eminent medical and health scientists urging Prime Minister Abbott to include climate change on the agenda for this year’s G20 meeting.

The letter, signed by scientists including Nobel laureate Peter Doherty, epidemiologist Fiona Stanley and immunologist Sir Gustav Nossal was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

It warned that the risks of climate change posed to human health includes more intense heatwaves, floods, fires and the spread of disease-carrying mosquitos.

Climate change-related water shortages will threaten hygiene and yields of food from agriculture as well as supplies of drinking water, while acidification of the oceans will endanger marine food sources, the letter warned.

It said:

Current climate trends, driven by global warming, threaten the basis of future economic prosperity, regional political stability and human health… Infections such as gastroenteritis increase with warming, as do levels of hazardous air pollutants. Threats to rural and coastal assets and livelihood will adversely affect mental health…

The issue warrants urgent consideration at the G20 meeting. The health of present and future generations is at risk from on-going human-induced climate change.

We are at a crucial point in history, and as the G20 countries hold the lion’s share of global emissions they must take strong and consistent steps to decarbonise, for the good of the world economy and the health of mankind.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abbott confirmed that as the host nation, Australia would set the agenda for the upcoming G20 meeting this November.

She said climate change issues will be discussed as part of broader talks on energy.

The Government claims it takes the science seriously, but its roll back of carbon pricing, support for coal mining, attacks on renewable energy and refusal to put climate on the G20 agenda at a crucial point in history demonstrate that it does not.

The letter comes in the wake of a new study that shows air pollution is killing more Australians than road accidents, again emphasising the fact that moving away from fossil fuels is as important for addressing domestic health impacts as it is for global climatic ones.

Acting now to clean up the global economy will help us not only avoid the worst health, environmental and economic impacts of climate change, but also immediately improve already health outcomes for countless people.

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