Urgent action on climate change is a health win-win Friday, 28 November 2014

Press Release: OraTaiao

New Zealand can make huge gains for health, now and in the future, by committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A Special Article on climate change and health is published today in the  New Zealand Medical Journal. The article clearly demonstrates that rather than being an environmental issue, climate change is fundamentally an issue about people's survival and their health and wellbeing. As well as describing risks to the health of New Zealanders from climate change, the paper also highlights opportunities for health and fairness.

"It's a win-win opportunity. There are widespread health risks in our life-time here in New Zealand from climate change. But if we take well-designed actions now to reduce emissions we can have huge health benefits both now and into the future," says Dr Alex Macmillan, co-convenor of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.

The Special Article identifies great public transport, safer cycling and walking, housing insulation, clean energy and better diets as ways to get double benefit. These changes would give immediate health benefits, especially to New Zealand's poorest families, and would cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

"New Zealand has the opportunity right now to improve asthma, heart disease, diabetes and cut injuries if we commit to an ambitious GHG reduction target," says Dr Macmillan.

"New Zealand has a great opportunity to step up to the climate challenge at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima next week. If we opt for business-as-usual, we will miss the opportunity for a more healthy, thriving population and a fairer society right now."

About the New Zealand Medical Journal Special Article
The New Zealand Medical Journal Special Article is co-authored by climate health experts, including Professor Alistair Woodward, lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment Report (IPCC AR5) chapter on health and Associate Professor Simon Hales, lead editor of the World Health Organisation's Quantitative risk assessment of the effects of climate change on selected causes of death, 2030s and 2050s.

About OraTaiao
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council comprises senior doctors and other health professionals concerned with climate change as a serious public health threat.

They also promote the positive health gains that can be achieved through action to address climate change. See: www.orataiao.org.nz

About Climate Change and Health
Climate and health information is available in the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine's policy statement on climate change.

New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions per capita are one of the highest in the world and analysis by the NZ College of Public Health Medicine quantifies the extent that NZ needs to do more.

A recent editorial in The Lancet stated: "In 2009, a Commission report published by The Lancet in collaboration with University College London (UCL) stated that "climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Five years later, we still believe this conclusion to be true."