New Zealand Doctors Warn of Severe Health Impacts from Climate Change Friday, 14 March 2014

New Zealand public health doctors are warning there will be severe health impacts from Climate Change and are calling for urgent action from all levels of society.

The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine says that climate change is already contributing to the global burden of disease and premature death, but much worse is coming.

"Human-caused climate change is a serious threat to health and as difficult as it might be, we need to take urgent action now as individuals, health professionals and at governmental level," says College President Dr Julia Peters. 

"Climate change will almost certainly lead to food and water shortages, increased mental health issues, more injury and illness, and more heat related deaths and illness from extreme weather. It will also probably cause more mosquito borne diseases, skin cancer, cardio-respiratory disease and toxic shellfish poisoning, to name just a few," says Dr Peters.

"As is frequently the case, the health of New Zealand's poorest will suffer most from climate change. In New Zealand, Māori and Pacific peoples, and lower socio economic groups will be by far the worst hit, seriously impacting health equity in the immediate future and for generations to come. 

"In addition, many populated areas of the world will be unable to support human health and well-being and New Zealand is likely to have increased climate refugee and migrant populations as a result."

The College, which has formally released its Climate Change Policy Statement, is calling for concerted action from the public, institutions and governments to address climate change across the board.

"This would be a win-win approach. Not only could we avert some of the health problems heading towards us because of Climate Change, we could also see many health benefits.  Changes that lead to reduced emissions are likely to improve levels of obesity, heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, thereby improving population health and saving scarce health funds.

"All of us can take actions that benefit the environment whether it is leaving the private motor vehicle at home or increasing the energy efficiency of our own homes.  Health and other institutions can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and the government also needs to take steps to establish more ambitious goals and targets for reduced carbon emissions."

For further comment please call Dr Julia Peters on 022 054 2315

The NZCPHM Climate Change Policy Statement and its supplements are available on the Policy and Publications page.