The Health Benefits of Climate Action


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Our Uncashed Dividend: The Health Benefits of Climate Action draws together a large and growing body of evidence from health and medical research showing substantial health benefits linked to measures to cut emissions.

Actions that cut carbon pollution can improve Australians’ health and could save billions of dollars and thousands of lives each year.

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The Health Benefits of Climate Action

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  2. 2. Our Uncashed DividendThe health benefits of climate actionAugust 2012 “Evidence from around the world suggests we’re missing out if we don’t cash in on the big health dividend that cutting emissions can deliver. Cleaner energy, cycling and walking, protecting bushland, energy efficient buildings and low- carbon food choices all contribute to less chronic illnesses, including heart and lung disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes, and depression.” Fiona Armstrong, report author and CAHA ConvenorJointly produced by the Climate and Health Alliance and The Climate / 2
  3. 3. Introduction“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Effects of climate change onhealth will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions ofpeople at increased risk.” Managing the health effects of climate change, The Lancet, 2009• To date, action on climate change has largely been communicated in the language of sacrifice, loss, and disadvantage.• Where significant public health co-benefits can be demonstrated, however, communities may be more inclined to accept mitigation strategies• Many actions that reduce carbon pollution including smarter transport, healthier diets, more efficient home heating, switching to clean power also have associated health benefits. 3
  4. 4. Energy + HealthResearchers estimate that coal-fired power generation in Australia carries a humanhealth cost—from associated respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system diseases—of A$2.6 billion annually.Modelling of potential changesin the energy mix in Europeshows that a two thirdsreduction in greenhouse gasemissions could save almost50,000 lives each year; livesthat would otherwise be lostowing to air pollution. 4
  5. 5. Clearing the airGlobally, air pollution kills 1.34 million people each year. In Australia, it is estimated thatmore people are killed by air pollution every year than the road toll. Motor vehicle-related air pollution is believed to be responsible for between 900 and 4,500 cases of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and bronchitis each year in Australia, and between 900 and 2,000 early deaths. Reducing air pollution through strategies to cut greenhouse gas emissions can help prevent hospital admissions and visits to doctors, as well as reducing time lost from school and work 5
  6. 6. Benefits of reducing CO2 The Netherlands Environment Agency estimated in 2009 that reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to half of 2005 levels would reduce the number of premature deaths in 2050 from air pollution by 20 to 40%. Simply shifting to stricter emissions standards for nonroad diesel engines being used in the construction and industrial sectors in Australia could reduce particle emissions by more than 10,000 tonnes each year and deliver associated health benefits (from reduced PM10 and NOX emissions), saving taxpayers up to $5 billion annually. 6
  7. 7. Changing the way we moveDirect and immediate health gains are possible from changes to ourapproach to land transport.Reducing our reliance on private vehicles through investment in improved publictransport and increasing the proportion of trips taken by active transport such aswalking and cycling offer substantial opportunities to improve health. 7
  8. 8. Changing the way we moveObesity has now overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death andillness in Australia. More than 60 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese. The likelihood of becoming obese increases by 6 per cent for each hour spent in a car each day. Conversely, it is possible to reduce these odds by 5 per cent simply by walking an additional kilometre each day. Relatively simple, cheap initiatives like this can yield profound improvements in health, cutting emissions at the same time. 8
  9. 9. Healthier homes and buildingsImproving the energy efficiency of houses andbuildings, together with improvements in indoor airquality, can offer important health gains as well asfinancial savings in addition to emissionsreductions.Research shows people living in urban areas havea more positive outlook on life and higher lifesatisfaction when they have access to naturalenvironments. Exposure to nature is alsoassociated with an ability to cope with and recoverfrom stress, and recover from illness and injury. Residential and commercial buildings account for around 20 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. 9
  10. 10. Protecting our ecosystemsHuman health and survival depends on a healthy natural environment forclean air, soil and water, as well as many naturally derived medicines. Exposure to natural environments is demonstrated to have important physical and mental human health benefits. Studies from the US and UK suggest that urban forests can help draw down greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce air pollution, and reduce energy demand by helping to alleviate the disproportionate temperature increases in metropolitan areas known as the ‘urban heat island’ effect  10
  11. 11. Eating our way to better healthAround 20 per cent of Australia’s net annual emissions stem from food and fibre productionand deforestation. At present, livestock contribute around 70 per cent of Australia’s methaneemissions, and about 12 per cent of the country’s carbon pollution overall.Moderating our consumption of meat and dairy products willlower the incidence of obesity, ischaemic heart disease andstroke, while cutting consumption of processed meat willreduce the incidence of colorectal cancers.Progressively changing the diets of people in affluent societieslike Australia is an important climate change mitigationstrategy, and one that could also result in significant publichealth benefits.  11
  12. 12. Conclusion Given both the tremendous health risks of a more hostile Australian climate and the potential benefits of action, a national health and climate change plan is needed. Such a plan could help communities, businesses and government better prepare for climate change, take advantage of the opportunities provided by low-carbon initiatives, and take actions that cut emissions and promote better human health.  12
  13. 13. Conclusion “Climate action can be challenging, but it can be a solutions multiplier, delivering better health, substantial economic savings and improved quality of life. Climate action can mean that people’s health and life expectancy improves, with fewer sick days, fewer visits to the doctor, fewer hospital admissions, reduced use of medication, and increased productivity.” John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute  13
  14. 14. ResourcesIn this video, filmed at the launch of the report at Canberra Hospital on14 August 2012, youll hear from leading experts in the public health and climate sectorsincluding:+ Fiona Armstrong - Convenor of the Climate and Health Alliance (and report author)+ Professor Tony McMichael OA - National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health+ Professor Tony Capon - Head of Public Health, Faculty of Heath - University of Canberra+ Michael Moore - CEO, Public Health Association of Australia+ Dr Steve Hambleton - President, Australian Medical Association+ John Connor - CEO, The Climate InstituteTo watch visit  14
  15. 15. More InformationFor more information, including the full report and references,  15