Where are we on climate change?
Published: 6 June 2011
The recent announcement by the federal government of plans to set a carbon price has provoked a storm of public debate.
There has been a lot of misinformation – particularly from high emitters, big business, and their political representatives – but not much considered opinion.
But there is one thing we now know for certain: the science on climate change is clear. There is overwhelming evidence for human-made global warming, and the window for remedial action is closing.
It is vital that unions and workers are involved to ensure that workers are not left out in the move to a low-emission economy.
The QNU’s own vision, mission and values statements and strategic plan 2010-2012 require us to seek an environmentally sustainable future for our members, families and communities, and also to facilitate positive and sustainable social change through directed activities, education and policy development.
This plan was distributed to all members for feedback and was subsequently endorsed by QNU Council last year.
In accordance with the plan, the QNU is acting on climate change – changing our workplace behaviour, reducing our carbon emissions, and putting our support behind moves to tax the emitters.
Unions support a price on pollution
Releasing the union movement’s guiding principles for the implementation of a price on emissions, ACTU President Ged Kearney said that delaying action on climate change would only prove more costly in years to come.
"New figures from the Climate Change Department show Australia’s emissions jumped 0.5 per cent last year – and that rise will continue if we do nothing," Ms Kearney said.
"The result will be a loss of jobs in sectors such as agriculture and tourism. But if the government acts and puts a price on pollution, we can make a difference."
There is hope – and health professionals should lead
Fiona Armstrong is a former Senior Research Officer at the ANF, who now convenes the Climate and Health Alliance, a group of health care stakeholders that advocates for climate change policy to protect public health.
Fiona says nurses and midwives have an important role to play in the climate change debate.
"Nurses and midwives are a large group of stakeholders in the health system and can show leadership on this issue," she says.
Fiona says there is little discussion in health policy about the impact of climate change on the health workforce and the health system.
"We know our health system is under pressure now. Climate change will add to that pressure with more and more severe direct consequences like heatwaves, fires, droughts and storms and indirect consequences like vector-borne diseases, increase pollution and contamination of our marine life and reduced food security."
"The good news is that we know about it and we know what we can do. The technology is available and resources are abundant. All that is missing is political will."
The main health risks in Australia from climate change include:
- health impacts of weather disasters
- health impacts of temperature extremes including heatwaves
- mosquito-borne infectious diseases
- food-borne infectious diseases and other health risks for poor water quality
- increases in urban air pollution
- mental health consequences of social, economic and demographic dislocations.
The ACTU has produced a Climate Change Campaign Kit to help members understand and support the price on CO2 emissions.
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