Australia’s doctors have urged the federal government to act on the dire warnings for human health in the latest UN report on climate change.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said the government could not ignore the worrying predictions for human health in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
“The impact on human life is significant,” he said on Wednesday.
“The AMA urges the government to seriously consider these predictions, and act accordingly.”
In the IPCC report, released this week, 91 authors and review editors from 40 countries paint a stark picture of what the world will look like by 2040, unless global warming is kept to below 1.5 degrees this century.
They say a 2 degree increase in global temperatures will lead to higher risks of malaria, dengue, yellow fever and Zika virus, among other conditions.
The report also predicts heat-related deaths will increase to 475 a year at 1.5 degrees, and to 970 a year at 2 degrees.
The Earth’s atmosphere will warm up by as much as 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty, if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the authors found.
The IPCC report says limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will require rapid, far-reaching changes in all aspects of society – including transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent”. Among its recommendations are phasing out coal-fired power by 2050.
Dr Bartone said the report reiterated the scientific reality that climate change affected health and wellbeing by increasing the environment and situations in which infectious diseases could be transmitted, and through more extreme weather events, particularly heatwaves.
“This is consistent with AMA policy,” he said.
The report also describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.
The federal government has already rejected the IPCC report’s call to phase out coal-fired power by mid-century.
However, Environment Minister Melissa Price said the government “was committed to the Paris Agreement and takes its international obligations seriously”.
The Paris accord was signed three years ago by almost 200 nations, who pledged to keep warming to 1.5-2 degrees. Australia’s pledge is to cut 2005-level emissions 26-28 per cent by 2030.