Health professionals concerned about climate change are alarmed by Bathurst Resources Limited’s announcement this week that site clearance for coal mining on the Denniston Plateau is to start on 1 July.
“Coal is one of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels”, says Dr Rhys Jones from OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council. “This means that it poses serious risks to health through its contribution to climate change.”
Climate change threatens human health in a variety of ways, such as through food and water shortages, extreme weather events and increased infectious disease. “To avoid a dangerously changing climate, most of the world’s known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground”, continues Dr Jones.
Coal mining is also associated with occupational illness, injury and high death rates, and mining communities tend to fare poorly in terms of economic well-being. “Burning of coal also damages health through air pollution – our exported coal in China and India contributes to some of the worst air pollution in the world”, says Dr Jones.
A recent report has highlighted that New Zealand needs a planned transition away from boom-and bust mining toward a sustainable economy where profits stay local. “Stable employment is an important foundation for health in our communities. Everyone on the West Coast deserves sustainable economic development that creates stable jobs and promotes health and wellbeing”, says Dr Jones.
“Our changing climate is the biggest threat to global health, including for New Zealand”, Dr Jones concludes. “We need to take a healthier approach to our future both for stable employment and a stable climate.”