The 2021 report of the MJA–Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: Australia increasingly out on a limb

Paul J. Beggs*, Ying Zhang, Alice McGushin, Stefan Trueck, Martina K. Linnenluecke, Hilary Bambrick, Helen L. Berry, Ollie Jay, Lucie Rychetnik, Ivan C. Hanigan, Geoffrey G. Morgan, Yuming Guo, Arunima Malik, Mark Stevenson, Donna Green, Fay H. Johnston, Celia McMichael, Ian Hamilton, Anthony G. Capon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The MJA–Lancet Countdown on health and climate change in Australia was established in 2017, and produced its first national assessment in 2018, its first annual update in 2019, and its second annual update in 2020. It examines indicators across five broad domains: climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation, planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement. Our special report in 2020 focused on the unprecedented and catastrophic 2019–20 Australian bushfire season, highlighting indicators that explore the relationships between health, climate change and bushfires. For 2021, we return to reporting on the full suite of indicators across each of the five domains and have added some new indicators. We find that Australians are increasingly exposed to and vulnerable to excess heat and that this is already limiting our way of life, increasing the risk of heat stress during outdoor sports, and decreasing work productivity across a range of sectors. Other weather extremes are also on the rise, resulting in escalating social, economic and health impacts. Climate change disproportionately threatens Indigenous Australians’ wellbeing in multiple and complex ways. In response to these threats, we find positive action at the individual, local, state and territory levels, with growing uptake of rooftop solar and electric vehicles, and the beginnings of appropriate adaptation planning. However, this is severely undermined by national policies and actions that are contrary and increasingly place Australia out on a limb. Australia has responded well to the COVID-19 public health crisis (while still emerging from the bushfire crisis that preceded it) and it now needs to respond to and prepare for the health crises resulting from climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-392.e22
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Volume215
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

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