Experts back emission cuts for kids
A health expert and former Australian of the Year says the health effects of climate change on children have been “grossly neglected”.
Dr Fiona Stanley wants the Federal Government to dramatically increase its emissions reduction targets for the health of the youngest Australians.
Dr Stanley made the call while launching a report by Doctors for the Environment.
She said that those least responsible for increasing temperatures and pollution would “unfairly bear the brunt of the impacts”.
“I think the health effects of climate change, and particularly the health effects on children have been grossly neglected and have not been acknowledged,” Dr Stanley said.
“This generation of children may be the last to live longer than their parents.”
The Doctors for the Environment report collated research from around the world to examine the impending impacts of increasing temperatures, extreme weather events and pollution.
The report found that increasing temperatures were associated with more children presenting to emergency departments with asthma, fevers and gastroenteritis.
The researchers said children were particularly vulnerable because they spent more time outside and their bodies responded differently to harm.
The report looked at psychological and physical impacts of extreme weather events as well.
Researcher Dr Sally Forrest said events like the 2003 Canberra bushfires caused children to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The mental health effects came in addition to the physical impacts of the fire; higher rates of asthma from pollution and allergens in the air, and the risk of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue.
Dr Stanley joined the report’s authors in calling for Australia to commit to more than its current meagre target at the Paris climate change talks this year.
“We really need to up those targets significantly, as other countries around the world are doing,” Dr Stanley said.
“Australia needs to get in step with those countries ... 30 per cent of 2000 levels is the way to go.”
Australian Medical Association president Dr Brian Owler agrees with the “overwhelming consensus” that climate change will have heavy impacts on health.
“In fact, even with the current situation and the current measure that are in place, we know that there are going to be health consequences,” he told the ABC.
“The health effects can be quite far reaching and we need to be prepared as doctors to try and combat those effects and we need to be prepared as a nation to make sure that our Government is invested to make sure that we are prepared to deal with those effects of climate change.”