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Climate change is harmful to our health: taking action will have many benefits

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“Tackling climate change could be the greatest health opportunity of the 21st century” (The Lancet, 2015)

Humanity is at a critical juncture, where decisions made today will have a dramatic impact on our future. In late November 2015, world leaders will gather in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). The aim of the meeting is to deliver a global agreement that will reduce carbon emissions, with the aim of limiting global warming to an increase of 2°C. A failure to do so will have far-reaching consequences for human health, in Australia and globally.

While the evidence for human-induced climate change is strong, and the current and projected effects of climate change are well described,1 calls to action often do not mention its health aspects. The Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health has attempted to redress this omission with their second report, released in June 2015.2 This report summarises the health impacts of climate change and outlines the potential health benefits that would flow from reducing carbon emissions, such as those achieved by reducing particulate air pollution by decreasing fossil fuel combustion.2 The report concludes that “tackling climate change could be the greatest health opportunity of the…