IPCC statement

Statement on the IPCC ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis' report

The George Institute for Global Health is calling for the urgent phase out of fossil fuels after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’ report. The report shows that without immediate action, global temperature increases as a result of human-induced climate change will exceed 1.5C around 2030. This increase means that within the next decade, extreme weather events will become more common, food security will be jeopardised, and the social and environmental determinants of health will be exacerbated, having serious consequences for global health.

Professor Robyn Norton AO, Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health, said:

“Climate change is a health emergency, and without immediate action this temperature increase will have devastating impacts on the health and wellbeing of all life on earth. In addition to an exacerbation of disability and early mortality from extreme weather events, climate change increases rates of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, and mental health conditions. Climate change also seriously compromises sustainable development, putting at risk decades of gains in health and equity around the world.”

In compromising sustainable development, climate change risks leaving communities experiencing the most disadvantage behind. High-income countries have a responsibility to the global community to reduce their emissions immediately and must commit to providing the necessary resources to support low- and middle-income countries to mitigate and adapt to climate-related disruptions.

Adaptive responses include strengthening healthcare systems to cope with the adverse consequences of global heating, as Professor Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of The George Institute, India, explains:

“The increase in extreme heat waves due to global warming seems to be accelerating the rate of chronic kidney disease among at-risk populations, for instance among young agricultural workers in rural regions in India. Heat stress and dehydration are compounding factors in kidney damage and increase the likelihood of severe disease. Alongside immediate action to halt rising global temperatures, governments and researchers must scale-up surveillance to better understand the scale of the heat stress neuropathy epidemic.”

Dr Kate Hunter and Dr Julieann Coombes, Co-leads of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research Program at The George Institute, Australia said:

“Global warming represents one of the most significant threats to global health in the 21st century. Remedial action must ensure meaningful involvement of those most impacted. Effective, inclusionary approaches in Australia must privilege the voices and knowledges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Traditional Custodians of the lands, and given the wealth of their lived experience of the effects of climate change on the environment and its relation to health and wellbeing.”

Co-Chair of The George Institute’s Planetary Health Working Group, Chelsea Hunnisett commented:

“It is time for governments to take the findings of the IPCC seriously. As we approach COP26, governments must set out an ambitious agenda to rapidly decrease their dependence on fossil fuels. This is crucial to protecting the planet and the health of everyone who lives on it.”

Find out more about The George Institute for Global Health’s planetary health work here.