Rural communities feeling health impacts of climate change: doctors

Rural communities feeling health impacts of climate change: doctors

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"I remember this young farmer coming in just breaking down in front of me, talking about how he's probably going to have to lose the family farm. You see that people actually losing their livelihoods. It really hits home."

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MORE than 150 rural doctors have written to the Prime Minister, accusing the Energy and Emission Reductions Minister of failing to protect Australians from the health impacts of climate change.

The letter, co-signed by 700 doctors from around the country, says Emission Reductions Minister Angus Taylor was failing his fundamental ministerial duties.

"Public health is inextricably linked to climate health - climate damage is here now and it is killing people," the letter stated.

More than 20 per cent of the signees were regional-based doctors, including Rural Doctors Association of Victoria president Rob Phair.

He's seen the health effects of climate change first hand while working in the Kimberly, which "already has extreme heat", and now in Victoria's east Gippslands, which had about two-thirds of its forests burnt out.

Dr Phair didn't hesitant to label climate change "the most significant health issue facing our rural communities", with its impacts ranging from the mental stress of drought to early deaths from bushfire smoke.

"We know it's a huge health issue - if you look at last summer alone, just in south-eastern Australia, it's estimate about 400 people died due to the air pollution generated by bushfires," Dr Phair said.

"Epidemiologists looked at the numbers and found that all causes of mortality went up over that period of time. They eliminate all other factors and they're left with 400 deaths that aren't explained by anything else except for really high levels of air pollution.

"Bushfires causing fine particle pollution and they results in death from heart attacks and just early mortality from other causes. It also affects foetuses while they're still in their mother's wombs."

The letter has a "significant" number of rural signees, Dr Phair said that could be because they see how it "directly impacts their community".

"We had drought right up until the bushfires, so there are all kinds of reasons happening right front of your eyes, as to why you might be become become a climate change activist," he said.

"I remember this young farmer coming in just breaking down in front of me, talking about how he's probably going to have to lose the family farm.

"You feel that, you see this severe mental distress, you see that people actually losing their livelihoods. It really hits home."

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The group of doctors took specific aim at Mr Taylor for allocating more money to fossil fuels and gas while overseeing a 50 per cent decline in large-scale renewables investment, not committing to a 2050 net zero emissions target and failing to meet the nation's international emissions reductions obligations.

"In failing in his responsibilities to reduce emissions, Mr Taylor is contributing towards rather than reducing the harm," the letter states.

Dr Phair expects more health professions to speak up on the issue.

"Pretty much all of the major medical colleges in Australia are asking the federal government to take significantly strong reaction on climate change," he said.

"We don't want it to be a political issue, we wanted to be a health issue."

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The story Rural communities feeling health impacts of climate change: doctors first appeared on Farm Online.

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