Doctors warn NEG will increase risk of sickness and death from extreme weather

Doctors for the Environment Australia have warned that the failure of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) to reduce carbon emissions will place Australians at more risk of sickness and death from extreme weather events.

In a submission to the Commonwealth Government, the group has expressed alarm and exasperation that carbon emissions are still rising in Australia. Spokesperson for DEA Dr John Iser says, “Currently we are seeing but glimpses of what rising carbon emissions will mean for our health, and without adequate action these effects will only worsen. “Heat waves, devastating bushfires and drought, more severe floods and storms will all affect people and all living things. Further biodiversity loss opens up unknown risks for our survival. “Continued loss of polar ice-caps leading to sea-level rise will devastate the lives of millions of coastal dwellers, including Australians. The destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the world’s great biodiverse places, is one of the first major casualties of ocean warming to impact Australia’s shores. “These are not idle predictions-- the northern hemisphere is currently sweltering in a heat wave of unprecedented magnitude, which is an ominous sign for our future summers, while Australia has recorded its warmest July to June year on record. The submission also says that the adverse health effects from pollution derived from burning fossil fuels, particularly coal, are significant. “The NEG’s 26% electricity emissions reduction target for the electricity sector is so inadequate and unambitious that it is close to fulfillment already as the states (SA, Vic, ACT, Qld, and more recently WA and Tas) have been working with the market to install renewable technologies which allow for reduction in fossil-fuel generated power”, says DEA in its submission. An estimated 3,000 people die every year in Australia from air pollution, about half from coal mining and combustion. Air pollution contributes to asthma attacks, chronic lung disease, lung cancer, dementia, heart attacks and stroke. Studies overseas and in Australia, show that the incidence of low birth weight babies may be related to their pregnant mothers living downwind from coal- fired power stations and these babies have a higher risk of impaired outcomes. Says Dr Iser, “Doctors are a hundred per cent behind the continuing transition to renewable energy—this will provide Australians with cleaner air and lower emissions, more jobs and investment, and fewer adverse health impacts. “Moreover, Australia has a duty to care not only for its own but to contribute its fair share in reducing global carbon emissions.”

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