Real action on climate change needed to protect regional Australia

Dr Luke Mitchell. Picture: Supplied
Dr Luke Mitchell. Picture: Supplied

As a rural doctor and parent of three young kids, I am relieved to see that climate action is finally on the political cards for Australia.

Rural Australians are set to be the hardest hit by the climate crisis.

In my region, the South Coast of NSW, we have had a taste of the climate crisis already.

We have experienced the hottest year on record alongside the worst drought in history fuelling unprecedented fires across the East Coast of Australia.

While almost two years ago now, these fires have changed the course of many lives of rural Australians.

Thirty-three lives were lost and many more shattered.

In addition, an estimated 417 deaths occurred from excess exposure to hazardous bushfire smoke and over 2000 hospitalisations.

It was impossible to get away from the heat and smoke when there was no electricity - it seeped into our homes, hospitals, aged care facilities and schools.

I wonder, which one of my patients lost their lives prematurely?

Was it the elderly man who had a heart attack or the mother who had a stillborn baby?

The mental health impacts from this extreme traumatic event are still quietly rippling through the community today.

Rural Australians already face major challenges in access to healthcare, and as a consequence suffer poorer health outcomes.

The climate crisis, set to make these extreme events far worse and more frequent, will compound these challenges further.

The National Party of Australia say they support Australians living in rural communities.

If they did, they would have stopped dragging the chain on climate action decades ago.

Along with the Liberals, together the only target they are going to meet and beat is the global warming limit of 1.5 degrees.

It is time for both parties to wake from their climate denialism slumber and show courage.

Courage like that displayed by my fellow nurses and doctors through this pandemic.

Clear targets are urgently needed to halve carbon pollution in this decade, not just a far sighted target of 2050.

It is time to commit to ambitious climate goals this decade, revitalise the regions with jobs of the future, and protect our health and prosperity.

  • Dr Luke Mitchell is a GP/Anaesthetist based in NSW.
This story Regions need action on climate change now first appeared on The Canberra Times.