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NZers among experts discussing solutions on climate & health


Thursday 24 July 2014

New Zealanders among experts discussing solutions to climate health risks

“Climate change will affect the livelihoods of New Zealanders,” says Dr Macmillan, the acting co-convenor of the New Zealand Climate and Health Council. She was speaking from the Australian Academy of Science meeting in Brisbane this week, bringing together some of Australasia’s best climate and health thinkers.

Dr Macmillan is one of several New Zealand participants in the meeting. She says the meeting highlights the urgency of climate change as a leading public health issue.

“Although the threats to our health and livelihoods are very serious in New Zealand, we can best address these risks by proactively reducing our greenhouse pollution now. Putting health and fairness at the centre of decision-making about climate change also opens up exciting opportunities for health and addressing inequalities.”

Topics covered at the meeting included the impact of food and water shortages, greater risks to livelihoods and mental health, and regional migration causing social pressures are just some of the problems being discussed by leading researchers in Brisbane this week.

The world experts and 60 young researchers looked at the risks, solutions and opportunities that will matter for population health in a changing climate.These include

• Temperature and extreme weather events

• Infectious disease

• Food and water supplies

• Livelihood and disadvantage

• Security, social instability and conflict

“We have been focusing on the impacts of climate change on people’s livelihoods, because this is such a powerful influence on health and wellbeing,” says Dr Macmillan.

“A rapid transition towards low carbon jobs, which are resilient to expected climate extremes will be crucial for protecting future health. Particular attention needs to be given to disadvantaged groups that are most vulnerable to climate change.

“In New Zealand, the health risks of climate change are likely to be particularly high for Maori and for low-income populations. In addressing these risks, we need to emphasise strategies that benefit these vulnerable groups.”

This echoes the conclusions of a paper just published in the international Health and Human Rights Journal, which analysed the implications of climate change on health rights for Maori. Lead author and OraTaiao co-convenor, Dr Rhys Jones, says the paper shows that New Zealand needs to do more to meet its human rights obligations in this area.

“Several important climate change risks, such as worsening food insecurity, are likely to disproportionately affect Maori. New Zealand's responses to climate change need to specifically consider impacts for Maori, in order to reduce inequalities and to respect human rights principles.”


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