Health professionals welcome Royal Society’s Climate risks report, and highlight importance of risks to health

19 April 2016

Health professionals, in welcoming the Royal Society of NZ’s report today on climate change in New Zealand, are also concerned about the real health risks to New Zealanders from climate change and unhealthy responses to it, and how these may widen health gaps.

"We welcome the Royal Society’s clear call to climate action from six high risk areas: coastal margins, river flooding, freshwater availability, ocean chemistry change, ecosystems threats, and flow-on effects from global climate changes and responses,” says Dr Rhys Jones of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

“Yet climate change should also be viewed as a global medical emergency and, importantly, addressing climate change can also be an unprecedented opportunity for real gains in health outcomes now.”

Dr Jones stresses that here in New Zealand, climate change will cause different impacts for different population groups – depending on location, age, ethnicity, health status, and socioeconomic circumstances. Māori, Pacific, and low-income groups in New Zealand risk greater adverse health impacts from climate change.

Yet there are significant untapped opportunities to improve health, reduce climate emissions and create a fairer society. “Healthy daily activity can be designed back into our transport systems - fossil-fuel free. Every New Zealand home, including rentals, can be healthier and cheaper to warm and cool, with huge benefits for children’s health. Encouraging food that’s healthier with more vegetables and fruit, and less meat and dairy, also reduces climate risk,” says Dr Jones.

The Council is calling for New Zealand to start getting serious about leading real climate action here at home. By taking such action we can also improve health – and protect our land, freshwater, seas, ecosystems and economy.

“Climate changes have a human face, and create serious risks for New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing. Protecting our health and most vulnerable households must be priorities,” says Dr Jones.


Media Spokesperson: Dr Rhys Jones, Ph. 021 411 743, Email [email protected]

Dr Rhys Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) is a Public Health Physician and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, and Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate Climate and Health Council.

OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council (OraTaiao, The Council) is an incorporated society of over 420 health professional members calling for urgent and fair climate action – with real health gains now and for our future. We know that climate changes fundamentally threaten human health and wellbeing – and that well-designed climate action can mean greater health and fairness in both the short and longer term. Within its membership, OraTaiao has some of the world’s leading climate-health experts, and is consolidating linkages with health bodies and other climate-health organisations in New Zealand and internationally. See more at the OraTaiao website,

The Royal Society of NZ’s report ‘Climate Change Implications for New Zealand’ is available at

Detailed analysis by members of OraTaiao of the health and equity impacts of climate change for New Zealand, published in the NZ Medical Journal in 2014 as a Special Article, is available Open Access at

More recent Open Access editorials in the NZ Medical Journal by OraTaiao continuing the theme of health inequity are at:
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