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February 4, 2023

Determining climate change impact important for a disaster-fatigued population

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Brought to you by Cosmos Magazine and The Echo

No definition of climate emergency means difficulty in optimising responses.

The burden placed upon healthcare systems by COVID-19 might provide a glimpse into a future living with climate change, says one of Australia’s leading emergency physicians.

As Australia deals with further flooding events this week on the back of an unusual, but not unprecedented third consecutive La Niña in the spring and summer of 2022/23, the public’s capacity for more natural disasters may well be stretched.

It’s why Professor George Braitberg, writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, is calling for greater urgency in defining the hazard of a climate emergency, so that adequate adaptation and mitigation strategies can be implemented.

Braitberg has four decades of clinical experience in emergency medicine and is the director of emergency medicine research at Austin Health.

In his other role as deputy head of the critical care department at the University of Melbourne’s medical school, he is helping finalise a new master’s program in disaster and terror medicine.

His perspective offered to the MJA, says the lack of a clear climate emergency definition—even though some sub-national authorities have declared one—makes preparing appropriate actions to address the problem difficult.

“We need to have a clear definition of what that [climate] hazard is so we can then have the policies, procedures and actions against it, directed against it, so we can actually mitigate its impact,” Braitberg tells Cosmos.

“We need to be on board as a global community in terms of understanding and defining climate change and the climate emergencies that result from it, and to make sure that once we have that definition, that we develop global policies that address it and reduce the risk to ourselves and future generations.”

COVID-19 provides a glimpse into the climate health burden

It’s difficult to apportion a single natural event to climate change.

Instead, scientists predict and observe increases in the frequency and intensity of natural hazards such as wildfires, droughts, cyclones and flooding events, as well as increased temperatures.

These trends are beginning to emerge more often. In 2022, the world has seen records tumble with widespread northern hemisphere heatwaves contrasted with tumbling wet weather records in the south: Sydney has just smashed its annual rainfall record—with two-and-a-half months to spare—while major flooding has returned to in-land New South Wales.

And Australia’s long-range forecast today released by the weather bureau predicts above average tropical cyclone events, widespread flooding for northern and eastern Australia, and elevated grassfire and prolonged heatwave risk for the continent’s southern regions.

Although climate change has often been considered a problem for the environment, the cascading effects on human health—whether through disaster impact or acute illnesses like heat stress—have moved into the spotlight in recent years.

Braitberg expects the connection between increased climate-influenced events and human health will continue to be realised as pressure increases on global healthcare systems trying to recover from the pandemic.

“Through the last three years of COVID-19, we’ve seen the impact of constant, if you like, chronic disaster, on the health care system. It’s stretched it, healthcare workers are fatigued, it’s resulted in changes to access to care that we otherwise wouldn’t have considered five years ago,” Braitberg says.

“And, of course, that’s played out much more across the lower socio-economic nations where the disparity between those that have access, to those who don’t have access [to health care], continues to grow.

“There is a current, as well as future, health burden, that will grow as a result of not facing the realistic challenge that we have from climate change.”

At next month’s COP27 climate conference in Egypt, many nations are required to bring new carbon emissions reduction targets — known as ‘nationally determined contributions’ — to the table.

Australia is, so far, one of only 19 nations to have updated its NDC – it’s newly legislated target to reduce carbon emissions by 43% on 2005 levels by the end of this decade.

Conventions like COP27 represent a chance for governments to coordinate and define the risks and consequences of a climate emergency. But in doing so, these nations also need to be accountable, and bring reduction targets that pass the scientific muster.

That’s because there’s about three years left for the world to hit reverse gear on the amount of carbon it releases into the atmosphere, if there’s to be any hope of keeping global temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees.

“Regardless of what people and sceptics think about the cause of climate change, I can guarantee the human species is the only species that can do anything about it,” Braitberg says.

“Accepting that accountability, I think, at a government and national level and international level is part of that.”


This article was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Matthew Agius. Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.

Published by The Echo in conjunction with Cosmos Magazine.

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  1. Too true for comfort. It’s just a great pity that many ‘did not’ listen or see and accept the genuine warning signs along with the truth
    of Climate Change. We will all have to pay ‘the ferryman’ now.

  2. Italian scientists conclude that no climate change emergency exists.. please Cosmos elaborate ?
    Surely those well educated scientists are in denial ?

    • Barrow, Barrow, Barrow, you are amazing to be sure.
      Still staying the course with climate denial but as the saying goes, “desperate times call for desperate measures”, as you grab any climate denial life raft that may bob up in your moment of need.
      Your Italian Scientists and their article sank without trace when it first appeared only to somehow now be resuscitated by climate FUD expert, Rupert Murdoch and his outlets, The unAustralian newspaper and SkyintheDark tv.
      The Guardian wrote a piece that addressed these ‘new climate revelations’ that your Italians had discovered.
      You can read all about under the heading, “Sky and the Australian find ‘no evidence’ of a climate emergency – they weren’t looking hard enough”, by Graham Readfearn, 22/9/2022

      Well educated your Italians may be, “in denial” they most certainly are.

      You welcome.

          • Seriously Joachim stop believing yourself
            Let’s if we shall put all into perspective ..
            It has become fashionable to be a Activist
            More so now than ever in history why ..?
            The education system is indoctrinated
            The youth with this BS hence why
            Eco Anxiety is out of control.. this type
            Of mental health is up 70% become
            Of BS propaganda preached by the likes
            Of yourself Joachim & and your Commie
            Greens ..including Ms Thorpe and her
            Undisclosed ties to Bikie bosses etc ..
            Resign you hypocrite.. !!

          • Barrow, the thread to reply to you just below seems to have been closed.
            Probably that a good thing, as once again the science has put to bed climate denying, so off piste you go with a scatter gun assortment of rantings.
            Barrow, my man, stick to the science, we’ve had decades of it and even your mates over at Exxon knew it as they desperately tried to supress it.
            I know it hard for you. Wishing climate change ain’t so, won’t ever make it so. The Science is in old son.

      • Read the Italian report – “A critical assessment of extreme events trends in times of global warming”

        Reads as a well researched, measured report. I note some scientist “say” they don’t agree with the study, but aside from some verbal criticism , I’m yet to see any scientific argument, data or research paper to refute the study as yet.
        Keen to know if mistaken, no need for naming calling. Debate is a good thing.

          • Could you reference a report or paper that refutes the Italian research or at least addresses parts?

            the science is all there……the same science that gave us plastic to make our lives so much more convenient…yeh/nah, science ain’t static

          • Barrow and Steve, 30 years worth of o n g o i n g and peer reviewed UN/ IPCC science and reports too much for you?
            Reading any of our b i-a n n u a l Bureau of Meteorology State of the Climate Reports a no go zone as well?
            Desperate times, desperate measures, so best grab hold of an Italian red herring.
            Debunked as it was, but no matter, any wannabe lifeline will do until the next one can be drummed up.

            The only thing static is you denying in the face of all the research and events playing out world wide.
            You already forgotten our / Australia’s unprecedented National Bushfire Catastrophe 2019/20 or record flooding this year?
            You already forgotten about events across the northern hemisphere this year?

            You can deny all you like.
            Even Exxon knew it long ago, the climate science is real.

            You welcome.

  3. I’D like to know when these “increased temperatures ” are going to kick in because for this time of the year it is still bloody cold , wheres the global warming when you need it?

    • Anton, you a funny fella.
      “Increased temperatures”, its already happening as you very well know.
      No need for you to continue your make believe temperature ponderings when as Adam Bandt famously said it…”just google it mate”.

      Anton old son, get tapping away on your keyboard and dial up The BoM State of the Climate 2020 Report.
      It all there for you and the summary in part is, “Australia’s weather and climate are changing in response to a warming global climate. Australia has warmed on average by 1.44 ± 0.24 °C since national records began in 1910, with most warming occurring since 1950 and every decade since then being warmer than the ones before. ”

      You welcome.

    • Even this year – on track to be the coldest since 2008 – is still warmer than average.
      As your disingenuous self well knows, global warming was the original interpretation of the data trends & impact modelling, before the pattern of extremes became evident in the late 90s & scientists began using the term climate change. Happy to help


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