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Carbon Neutral Adelaide: A prescription for health

By Dr Ingo Weber

The City of Adelaide, together with the Government of South Australia, have a shared vision to become the world’s first carbon neutral city. To achieve this goal, alliances with diverse partners including private businesses, grass roots organisations, technology experts and medical doctors have been formed to work together to rapidly reduce carbon emissions.

Doctors for the Environment Australia, a voluntary professional medical organisation who advocate ‘that for healthy people, we need a healthy planet’, is proud to be a Founding Partner of the Carbon Neutral Adelaide initiative.

Evidence shows that more green space reduces stress, the urban heat-island effect and air pollution. More cycle ways and pedestrians, and reduced use of private cars, means more exercise, which contributes to a decrease in obesity rates, more social interaction and less congestion. More renewable energy means less air pollution and less carbon emissions that drive climate change.

Global warming is the biggest and most urgent health challenge of our times. Stress, depression, air pollution, obesity, diabetes, and not enough exercise are the major contributors to many of our biggest health problems, such as heart and lung disease and mental illnesses.

Imagine if a pill existed that could deal with all these issues at once, and also save us health dollars? In many ways, Carbon Neutral Adelaide is this “magic pill”.  Tackling climate change will improve health outcomes for us, our children and future generations, and minimise suffering.

Doctors for the Environment member and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley provided a foreword to “No Time for Games: Children’s Health and Climate Change”. The report discusses the impact of climate change and highlights that children are particularly vulnerable as their bodies and physiology are far more sensitive to their surroundings.

From heat stress to dehydration, increased disease and allergens, and witnessing trauma in extreme conditions, climate change has a huge effect on children’s mental and physical health. Furthermore, children and our future generations are the ones who have least contributed to climate change, yet will suffer the greatest impact.

In order for doctors, health professionals and the community at large to avoid the health impacts of catastrophic climate change, we must urgently reduce fossil fuel burning.

The Carbon Neutral Adelaide initiative is the best prescription available to us for a healthier, vibrant and well city, and for safeguarding the health of our children and their children.

The City of Adelaide has already managed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% since 2007 and the downward trend continues.  Most of these emissions come from energy used for transportation and by city buildings. With further clever infrastructure planning, smart technologies, more green-spaces, and accelerated use of renewable energy, like wind and solar, there is every reason to hope the City of Adelaide will become the world’s first carbon neutral city.

Dr Ingo Weber is an Adelaide anaesthetist and a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia, a Carbon Neutral Adelaide Founding Partner