The seriousness of the NSW air quality amidst the bushfire crisis has forced the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand to release a ‘Declaration on Climate Change’, decisively calling the current situation a medical emergency. The TSANZ is Australia’s premier body that represents lung health professionals.
“It is logical and reasonable for us, as respiratory health professionals, to act on the strength of the evidence before us. And the evidence is clear: climate change is a medical emergency that is already impacting the health of our patients,” said TSANZ President Professor Bruce Thompson.
“TSANZ is, therefore, calling on our members and governments at all levels, including the Commonwealth of Australia and the New Zealand Government, to take immediate and sustained action to address this climate emergency.”
“Catastrophic climate change is not inevitable. But we will not succeed unless we recognise it as the emergency it is, and act proportionally,” he said.
Taking into account “unseasonal weather patterns including wildfires,” the climate situation is “now worse than originally predicted.”
The changes “in weather patterns … pose wide-ranging adverse effects on health, including a serious threat to respiratory health.”
The organisation cited the World Health Organisation statistics that estimate at least 7 million premature deaths annually due to air pollution. Locally, the NSW fire situation has meant that NSW Ambulance services are attending 2330 calls for help each week, which is a rise of 30% above average call outs.
Hospitals across NSW have also reported an increase of 25% in emergency presentations for respiratory issues.
The organisation joins The Australian Medical Association (AMA), The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), The Australasian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM) and the World Health Organisation in declaring a climate emergency, and has called on the Government to “immediately reduce its fossil fuel exports. With this action, Australia has an opportunity to have an immediate and significant impact on global carbon emissions and air pollution.”
TSANZ also called for “the redirection of investment into accessible alternatives including clean transport and renewable energy” to “achieve quick results for cleaner air.”