Human physical and mental health already affected by climate change – IPCC report

MEDIA STATEMENT, 1 March 2022

Today’s new IPCC report on the impacts of climate change is a stark warning of the physical and mental health impacts on our communities  from climate breakdown. The report, produced by hundreds of experts worldwide, highlights the damage which has already occurred to nature and people from climate change, including more frequent and intense weather events, and warns of an acceleration unless urgent action is taken.

OraTaiao Co-convenor Dr Dermot Coffey said, “The report presents some of the increasing evidence around health impacts of climate change. In Aotearoa there is evidence about the effects of heat including lost hours for outdoor workers, and about heavy rain events causing flooding damage and drinking-water contamination with infectious disease pathogens. Something which the IPCC has increased its focus on is mental health. There’s evidence from Australia about climate impacts on farmers’ psychological wellbeing, and also stress and anxiety from climate change particularly for children, adolescents, elderly, and those with underlying health conditions.

“We find it deeply concerning to see that climate risks are projected to exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and socio-economic inequities including between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, between generations, city and rural communities and between people with different incomes and health status. The IPCC report stresses the need for us to make inclusive development choices that prioritise risk reduction, equity and justice. One aspect of this is improving  access to quality health care, including to mental health services and primary healthcare, particularly for marginalised groups, to make us more resilient to climate change effects.

“As a country we must also see greater collaboration across sectors, including health,  to address long-term climate impacts without exacerbating existing socio-economic inequities. We know decisions made outside the health sector often affect the underlying conditions that make people vulnerable to poorer health outcomes. The great news is that transitioning to an equitable low-carbon society can also improve health and wellbeing including, for example, if accessibility and affordability of active transport and plant-based diets are increased. We have asked the Climate Change Commission to form a health group to promote such inter-sectoral collaboration and ensure that, moving forward, health is included in the Commission’s advice to government,” said Dr Coffey. 

Importantly, Dr Coffey notes, “The IPCC report also recognises that indigenous knowledge and socio-cultural practices will be critical in responding to climate change in Aotearoa. This means elevating Mātuaranga Māori knowledge in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy development and learning from Māori culture and practices to promote collective climate action.”

ENDs

Media Spokesperson: Dr. Dermot Coffey 021 0267 5452
Dr Dermot Coffey ([email protected] ) is a General Practitioner in Christchurch, and Co-Convenor of OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health Council.

Notes to editors:

About the  IPPC report - AR6 Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, was prepared by 330 experts from all over the world who participated as Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors and Review Editors. 

See the IPCC report: “Climate Change 2022 Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Summary for Policymakers” and technical report here.

According to IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, “The Sixth Assessment Report will update our knowledge on climate change, its impacts and risks, and possible response options, and play an important role in implementing the Paris Agreement.” See here.


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