Doctors urge climate action

Source: Supplied

One of Australia's peak medical bodies says political leaders must act on climate change to reduce serious health impacts.

Australia's doctors will begin a campaign on Monday to warn world leaders that failure to make meaningful cuts to carbon dioxide emissions will cause a serious increase in heat-related illness and infectious diseases.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians will hold a Global Day of Climate Action to put pressure on leaders at the coming United Nations climate talks in Paris in December.

Infectious diseases physician and senior lecturer at the Australian National University medical school, Dr Ashwin Swaminathan, said doctors are trying to raise awareness of serious health impacts caused by climate change.

"Doctors want the community and our government representatives to know that health is at stake with climate change," Dr Swaminathan said.

"The college recognises that climate change poses a risk to the health of all Australians across all regions."

Health professionals have seen a spike in ambulance call-outs, hospital admissions and deaths during heatwaves, which are projected to increase further without checks on global emissions.

Dr Swaminathan said there will also be increases in water-borne and mosquito-borne diseases, with Australian disease specialists worried in particular about diarrhoea-causing bacteria and disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Higher temperatures expand the areas in which these disease carriers can thrive.

Dr Swaminathan said the species of mosquitoes that can carry dengue fever, Ross River fever and Barmah Forest virus will be able to move further south in Australia under changed climate conditions.

Disease and climate change is attracting more attention from doctors.

"It's something that is becoming more discussed at infectious diseases forums," Dr Swaminathan said.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians has begun a Doctors for Climate Action campaign which, with the support of 50 medical organisations, is calling on world leaders to commit to meaningful targets for emissions reduction at the United Nations COP 21 Climate Change Conference in Paris.

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