Skip navigation
We Are Union VTHC
We Are Union Journal
News from the working class
Featured:
Clive Palmer, hero of the average Joe

I’m a nurse - here’s why I care about climate change.

by Roslyn Morgan Registered Nurse and ANMF (Vic Branch) Environmental Health Officer

by Roslyn Morgan
Registered Nurse and ANMF (Vic Branch) Environmental Health Officer

2020 was designated by the World Health Organisation as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife but we missed the party because we were all rostered to work! That work involves the art of caring. It also involves evidence-based and scientific information. We know from global scientific research that climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.  

Victoria’s health services and health professionals are already seeing the effects of climate change in presentations and healthcare. It is estimated these impacts will result in a fivefold increase to the cost of public health by 2050. Financially this is a huge cost we should act to avoid but the human toll is even more traumatic. Presentations from thunderstorm asthma, other breathing difficulties and heat exposure might be too disturbing to elaborate on, but are forever burned into many nurses’ minds, including mine. Good health is priceless – ask anyone who has lost it or is fighting to preserve it.

There is no getting away from the fact that we need clean air and water, viable soil and manageable weather. Consider air quality. Coal-fired power stations are a big contributor to air pollution and almost 5,000 Australians die from exposure to air pollution each year. Thousands of others suffer health effects like stroke, heart disease and asthma. These stations are aging infrastructure and commercial owners are going to close them anyway, so let’s do it with oversight and investment that cleans up our power supply and planet without further stranding assets – and by assets I mean people and health! 

Presentations from thunderstorm asthma and heat exposure might be too disturbing to elaborate on, but are forever burned into many nurses’ minds, including mine.

We cannot be diverted by misnomers such as “a gas-led recovery.” There is no such thing. It’s the equivalent of an asbestos-led recovery or a tobacco-led recovery! Neither is there room for excuses or manipulating data to try and avoid responsibility. Australia’s per capita Co2 emissions are among the world’s highest and in this era of zero emissions ambition, the world is watching and judging. But it is not waiting. There is no waiting and no status quo when it comes to climate change.

The climate crisis comes with the risk of compounding events further straining already stretched health systems. Here in Australia we had not recovered from the fires when COVID-19 hit. In no time, many faced floods. This will only get worse and diminish resources and effective response capacity. We have been warned. COVID-19 demonstrated the vulnerability of supply chains and the importance of onshore manufacturing – and the supplies and the jobs that come with it.

In stark contrast, taking action comes with life-enhancing co-benefits: a cleaner planet, and the preservation of the land we love. That restores us. Where do you love to go for a walk? The beach? The bush? Wide open spaces? We need to remember these places and incorporate their protection into our decision-making. Indigenous people have been messaging this for so long. If we don’t listen, we lose.

This is so doable for Australia – a country rich in sun, wind and established energy trade routes. We would be crazy to let this opportunity go and pass it to others who are more proactive and visionary. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has said that with the right regulations, renewables could supply 75% of Australia’s electricity by 2025. Then bring on the right regulations! The offshore wind project, Star of the South, has the potential to supply up to 20% of the State of Victoria’s electricity needs while creating jobs and investment. Clean air. Protected lungs! 

We have an opportunity right now to combine job creation and economic stimulus efforts with action on climate change, preserving what we love as well as protecting our health and wellbeing.

But it needs oversight and regulation. Decisions cannot be left to market drivers where short-term profit for a few overlooks equity and justice for all. We need to transition and we need to do it well - and immediately. The opportunity is now but it is only now. It’s ours to lose and we mustn’t.

“The biggest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”  

I’m signing this petition because I’m taking a stand for health, and asking our politicians to do so as well.

We need a national strategy on climate, health and wellbeing for Australia, as called for by health professionals from around the country.  We need stronger 2030 targets for pollution reduction, a plan to get to zero emissions before 2050 that aligns with the Paris Agreement and 1.5 degrees of warming. We need an immediate national just transition plan with funding and support for workers and communities impacted both by the climate crisis, and a shift to clean, non-fossil fuel technologies. I’m taking a stand for the future we really want and need for ourselves and our children. These children are marching in streets all over Australia and all over the world. They plead with us to listen, learn, to act justly and take a stand with them and for them. 

Sign and share the petition here.

2020 was designated by the World Health Organisation as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife but we missed the party because we were all rostered to work! That work involves the art of caring. It also involves evidence-based and scientific information. We know from global scientific research that climate change is occurring and that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.

Subscribe