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Health and climate change time bomb

Monday, 31 March 2014

Health and climate change time bomb

Government representatives and scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have released their climate impacts report today.

Despite demonstrating the severe impacts of climate change if countries do not act, the report also highlights health gains and moral justice if there is widespread societalaction to tackle climate change.

The report summarises the best expert evidence on climate change worldwide, including impacts on health. “Climate change is already contributing to disease andpremature death globally, with much worse to come”, says Dr Alexandra Macmillan of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council. “There are definite andvery direct effects on health from shifting weather patterns and extreme temperatures.”

Factors that influence our health, including food availability, are being adversely affected as well. “Climate disruption in food production will have profound effects onpopulations who are already experiencing hunger,” notes Dr Macmillan. “New Zealand will not be immune to these effects – low income families will increasinglystruggle in the face of higher food prices. These effects will be felt most strongly by Maori, Pacific and lower socio economic groups, widening existing healthinjustice.”

“At the same time, we have exciting opportunities to make real progress for New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing right now with well-¬-planned policies that protectour climate and promote health and fairness ,” says Dr Macmillan. “Health gains include reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, respiratorydisease, motor vehicle injuries, musculoskeletal and other conditions, and improvements in mental health.”

“Making sure that every child in New Zealand lives in a warm, well-¬-insulated home would make a huge difference to hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses. Smartenergy subsidies for low income households could free limited income for healthier food while at the same time reducing climate risk.”

“In transport,” says Dr Macmillan, “low-¬-carbon travel (walking, cycling, scootering, skateboarding and public transport) improves physical activity, and reduces airpollution and road traffic injuries.”

The Council looks forward to promises of real progress on New Zealand’s most pressing health challenges for September’s election. “It’s 100% possible to reducecarbon emissions at the same time as increasing health and fairness. As we vote for our next government, let’s choose real progress towards a healthy, resilient and fairNew Zealand – not business-¬-as-¬-usual with awful consequences. ” says Dr Macmillan.


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