IPCC 6th Assessment Report and politics in Australia

Peter Tait – PHAA member


The messages from the first instalment of the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report is that the climate is changing, it is caused by human use of fossil fuels, and there is time to minimise the disaster that confronts us if we take strong action now. What this means for Australia, is essentially that we have to elect a government that will contribute to that global action.

It is now cliched to reiterate again that the current catastrophes spread all over the world are a sign of what we can expect with greater frequency and severity. It is frustrating that this is being responded to by our Prime Minister, speaking for his government, by a word salad.

How to get a government in Australia which will take this unfolding climate catastrophe seriously and do what we need to do to minimise the impact and get us ready to manage what we cannot prevent?

The next federal election really needs to become the ‘climate election’. All sectors of society and particularly the health sector, who recognises that this is a health and wellbeing emergency, need to put all their effort into getting a government who will take the necessary action. While we recognise that there are many other health care and health issues that are important, they are not as important as ensuring the long term survival of the human species. If the health professional groups do not take this near final opportunity to get a government that will act on climate disruption, then their members and the public need to question how serious they really are about the public’s health and wellbeing.

As voters we also have to shoulder this responsibility, and in choosing who to vote for in our own electorates, get a clear commitment from candidates what action they personally will take if elected. While political party members will adhere to their party’s policy commitment, it may be necessary for this election to look at the climate credentials of those seeking re-election as well as the climate commitments of those seeking to replace them.

This election is featuring a new electorate phenomenon, the Voices 4 and similar movements. These include the IndependentsCAN, The Local Party, and an array of other independents who have a progressive pro-climate action position. What Helen Haines (Indi), Zali Stegall (Warringah) and other independent and minor party MPs show, a non-major party aligned block in the House of Representatives and the Senate can open the possibility for putting pressure on the Coalition and ALP, whoever wins government, for serious climate action. These candidates provide voters the opportunity to drive the climate action we need to take urgently.

So we the people can put the major parties in a pincer between professional associations high level pressure to adopt and commit to serious urgent policy on climate and for us the voters to put MPs into the parliament who will also drive for such action. Our choice to get a government to take the findings of the IPCC Reports seriously in a federal election coming soon.


This opinion piece was written by Dr Peter Tait who is a Canberra GP. He is a long-standing member and Fellow of PHAA, and was for many years a convenor of the Ecology and Environment Special Interest Group.


Photo Credit: Dominik Vanyi from unsplash

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