The 2023 report of the MJA-Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: sustainability needed in Australia's health care sector

Paul J Beggs, Stefan Trueck, Martina K Linnenluecke, Hilary Bambrick, Anthony G Capon, Ivan C Hanigan, Nicolas Borchers Arriagada, Troy J Cross, Sharon Friel, Donna Green, Maddie Heenan, Ollie Jay, Harry Kennard, Arunima Malik, Celia McMichael, Mark Stevenson, Sotiris Vardoulakis, Tran N Dang, Gail Garvey, Raymond LovettVeronica Matthews, Dung Phung, Alistair J Woodward, Marina B Romanello, Ying Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The MJA-Lancet Countdown on health and climate change in Australia was established in 2017 and produced its first national assessment in 2018 and annual updates in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. It examines five broad domains: health hazards, exposures and impacts; adaptation, planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement. In this, the sixth report of the MJA-Lancet Countdown, we track progress on an extensive suite of indicators across these five domains, accessing and presenting the latest data and further refining and developing our analyses. Our results highlight the health and economic costs of inaction on health and climate change. A series of major flood events across the four eastern states of Australia in 2022 was the main contributor to insured losses from climate-related catastrophes of $7.168 billion - the highest amount on record. The floods also directly caused 23 deaths and resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people. High red meat and processed meat consumption and insufficient consumption of fruit and vegetables accounted for about half of the 87 166 diet-related deaths in Australia in 2021. Correction of this imbalance would both save lives and reduce the heavy carbon footprint associated with meat production. We find signs of progress on health and climate change. Importantly, the Australian Government released Australia's first National Health and Climate Strategy, and the Government of Western Australia is preparing a Health Sector Adaptation Plan. We also find increasing action on, and engagement with, health and climate change at a community level, with the number of electric vehicle sales almost doubling in 2022 compared with 2021, and with a 65% increase in coverage of health and climate change in the media in 2022 compared with 2021. Overall, the urgency of substantial enhancements in Australia's mitigation and adaptation responses to the enormous health and climate change challenge cannot be overstated. Australia's energy system, and its health care sector, currently emit an unreasonable and unjust proportion of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As the Lancet Countdown enters its second and most critical phase in the leadup to 2030, the depth and breadth of our assessment of health and climate change will be augmented to increasingly examine Australia in its regional context, and to better measure and track key issues in Australia such as mental health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-303
Number of pages22
JournalThe Medical journal of Australia
Volume220
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes

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