Last updated April 10, 2018 at 10:07 am
Heat exposure becomes more deadly than any other natural disaster.
Australia must realign its health services to address the shift in disease burden caused by climate change, according to the authors of a narrative review of recent scientific and organisational literature.
Dr Elizabeth Hanna and Associate Professor Lachlan McIver argue that heat exposure presents a greater risk than any other natural disaster and is Australia’s most significant current climate-related health burden.
“Entire populations cannot exist permanently in air-conditioned environments during heat waves,” they write.
“Human thermoregulatory limitations therefore place upper boundaries to human heat tolerance and thus survivability in a warming climate.”
Dr Hanna, from the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, is also President of the Climate and Health Alliance. Assoc Prof McIver, is Medical Advisor for Infectious Diseases, Epidemic Response and Antimicrobial Resistance with Médecins Sans Frontières,
They say that the evidence for climate change has been around for over a century and the implications for human health, particularly in Australia, are clear and imminent.
These include increased fire risk, more droughts and floods, risks of more intense tropical cyclones, and food and water insecurity, leading to a higher disease burden from infectious and possibly vector-borne diseases, including Ross River virus and dengue fever.
“Australia’s climate is changing. Adaptation is required and, perhaps more importantly, mitigation to avoid the worst of future health burdens,” they say.