A group of West Australian doctors want the government to do more to protect the community from the negative health effects of climate change.
Doctors for the Environment (WA Branch) is calling on the Cook government to stop approving gas projects and reduce emissions.
It also wants legislators to include “ambitious” 2030 and interim targets in the new Climate Change Bill 2023 to be introduced to state parliament this week.
The doctors say heat-related hospitalisations have “exploded”, with more than 7000 patients admitted because of extreme heat and 300 deaths in the past decade.
General practitioner Tim Leahy said one Perth hospital had a 60 per cent increase in urgent cases and resuscitations last week during unprecedented heatwave conditions when temperatures peaked at 40C on Thursday.
“We don’t have an extra 60 per cent of capacity in our hospitals on a regular basis,” he told reporters on the steps of the WA parliament on Tuesday.
“We know these heat waves are going to happen more frequently and they’re going to be more severe with time.
“The numbers are staggering and at the same time, more and more reports saying we need to reduce our carbon emissions.”
Dr Leahy said climate change was a public health challenge that required urgent action.
“The WA health system is already under significant pressure – we cannot afford a future where healthcare professionals are constantly forced to respond to climate change-induced heatwaves,” he said.
“We want no more new gas.”
The group pointed to The Lancet medical journal’s recent Annual Climate-Health report and said the community was now exposed to twice as many heatwave days compared to the period 1986-2005.
Heat-related deaths of people older than 65 increased by 85 per cent compared to 1990-2000.
The call for action was echoed by the Conservation Council of WA.
Fossil Fuels Program Manager Anna Chapman said the new bill was a good first step but WA needed to do more to lower carbon emissions.
“This legislation alone is not going to be sufficient to tackle WA’s emissions crisis,” she said.
Ms Chapman says the state must cut greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
“The problem is, while putting net-zero targets into law is important, we aren’t going to hit those targets if the state government keeps signing off on highly polluting fossil fuel projects,” she said.
“The next logical step is to rule out any new fossil fuel projects in WA and a pathway to phase out any existing sites as soon as possible.”
(Australian Associated Press)