US President Obama recently stated that ‘we are the first generation to experience climate change and the last generation that can do something about it’. This was one of the messages that CPD Analyst Rob Sturrock took to the Third Population Health Congress held in Hobart. The Congress brings together over 900 policy professionals, practitioners, government officials and academics to examine key community health concerns confronting Australia. On 7 September 2015, Rob provided the Oration to the Congress.
Drawing on the recent release of The Longest Conflict: Australia’s Climate Security Challenge, Rob spoke on the human security impacts that a changing climate will have on community health, including the implications for the Indo-Pacific region. This discussion outlined the effects that extreme weather, natural disasters and resource scarcity will have not just on mortality or morbidity, but on broader social and political instability and the likelihood of conflict.
Some of the key trends Rob highlighted included the following:
- Extreme heat across the Middle East this northern summer led to social instability and riots in Baghdad.
- Pakistan suffered more deaths from heat stress this year than it has from terrorist attacks.
- Climate-induced, prolonged drought exacerbated social instability that led to uprisings in Syria and Egypt.
- Resource scarcities and competition for food, water and energy will likely affect geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific within the next two decades.
- Australia will increasingly be called upon to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities ravaged by natural disasters in the region.
Rob emphasised the need for community leadership on adaptation and mitigation, saying we retain the agency to act on climate change, and citing the work already underway at the city and regional level. He also advocated for deeper regional engagement through Australia’s official aid program, particularly to help our neighbours and partners alike to improve their climate adaptation and resilience.
The speech generated significant discussion on social media amongst the Congress attendees. You can read the full speech here: Oration to Population Health Congress