The 2019 report of the MJA-Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: a turbulent year with mixed progress
Beggs, PJ and Zhang, Y and Bambrick, H and Berry, HL and Linnenluecke, MK and Trueck, S and Bi, P and Boylan, SM and Green, D and Guo, Y and Hanigan, IC and Johnston, FH and Madden, DL and Malik, A and Morgan, GG and Perkins-Kirkpatrick, S and Rychetnik, L and Stevenson, M and Watts, N and Capon, AG, The 2019 report of the MJA-Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: a turbulent year with mixed progress, The Medical Journal of Australia, 211, (11) pp. 490-491.e21. ISSN 0025-729X (2019) [Refereed Article]
The MJA-Lancet Countdown on health and climate change was established in 2017 and produced its first Australian national assessment in 2018. It examined 41 indicators across five broad domains: climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation, planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement. It found that, overall, Australia is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on health, and that policy inaction in this regard threatens Australian lives. In this report we present the 2019 update. We track progress on health and climate change in Australia across the same five broad domains and many of the same indicators as in 2018. A number of new indicators are introduced this year, including one focused on wildfire exposure, and another on engagement in health and climate change in the corporate sector. Several of the previously reported indicators are not included this year, either due to their discontinuation by the parent project, the Lancet Countdown, or because insufficient new data were available for us to meaningfully provide an update to the indicator. In a year marked by an Australian federal election in which climate change featured prominently, we find mixed progress on health and climate change in this country. There has been progress in renewable energy generation, including substantial employment increases in this sector. There has also been some progress at state and local government level. However, there continues to be no engagement on health and climate change in the Australian federal Parliament, and Australia performs poorly across many of the indicators in comparison to other developed countries; for example, it is one of the world's largest net exporters of coal and its electricity generation from low carbon sources is low. We also find significantly increasing exposure of Australians to heatwaves and, in most states and territories, continuing elevated suicide rates at higher temperatures. We conclude that Australia remains at significant risk of declines in health due to climate change, and that substantial and sustained national action is urgently required in order to prevent this.