French Death Toll A Warning For Our Climate Future?

September 2, 2003

The official death toll from the recent heat wave in France has reached 11,500 with air pollution, inadequate heath system and elderly people living in isolation being challenged as the cause of such tragic figures. This is an average of 800 deaths per day during the 14 day heat wave where temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius during the beginning of August.

The startling reality is that France has one of the highest rating health systems in the world according to the World Health Organisation, yet was unable to cope with the massive demand during two weeks of intense heat.

Australia by comparison has a struggling public health system with on-going tension between the state and federal governments over reform packages and funding. The COAG walk-out demonstrates the unlikelihood that this tension will be resolved in the near future.

In addition, the global predictions of temperature rise of up to 5.8 degree Celsius and greater number of extreme weather events as a result of climate change indicate heat waves, droughts and bush fires as an increasing threat to human health.

Recent health report from the National Centre of Epidemiology and Population Health from the Australian National University predicts a number of extreme health impacts from climate change. This range from increased numbers of people exposed to flooding to the extension of malaria and dengue fever susceptibility zones as far South as Gympie in Queensland.

Australia alone has increased our greenhouse gas emissions by 18% since 1990 according to a media announcement the by the United Nations.

"Each year that passes without substantial decreases in greenhouse gas emissions is a further nail in the coffin for the most vulnerable members of our communities." Stated Climate Justice campaigner Stephanie Long.

"Indigenous peoples, the elderly and our neighbours on the Pacific Islands are being delivered a bleak health future under the current governments lack of commitment to effective emission reduction strategies". Continued Ms Long.

Just days ago the federal government also rejected a emissions tax proposal, despite the Sustainable Business Council's report indicating the economic disadvantage of not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

For comment contact:

Stephanie Long
Friends of the Earth Australia
Mob: 0414 136 461