Australian lives are at risk due to the government's lack of responses to addressing the impacts of climate change on health, researchers warn.
A group of 19 experts from 13 universities and research institutes says Australia has "gone back" and lags behind other developed countries, including Germany and Britain, in protecting people's health from the effects of climate change such as rising temperatures and air pollution.
In the first in-depth report on Australia's progress in tackling climate threats, experts identify risks including malnutrition, outbreak waves, outbreaks of illness and mental health problems.
And they noticed that, in addition to Queensland, no state or territory has a comprehensive, independent policy to help people adapt to climate change and protect their health.
"Overall, we find that Australia is threatened by climate change 'health impacts, and that political inactivity in this regard is threatening Australian lives," says a report released Thursday by the Medical Journal of Australia and The Lancet.
The report focuses on direct health impacts such as heat wave deaths, established measures to help people adapt, and the benefits of mitigating threats by doing things as a sustainable transport system that will help improve air quality.
It is also a unique view of the impact that climate change can have on mental health, pointing out the link between rising suicide rates and rising temperatures in recent years.
"I think this is an area that we need to focus on," said one of the co-author reporters, Professor Paul Beggs of the University of Macquarie.
"One of the policy recommendations of this report is to do more research in this area to look at the relationship between climate and mental health in order to better cope."
The report calls on governments of all levels to put in place comprehensive policies to help cities and people adapt to the rising temperatures and longer temperatures associated with higher mortality rates.
A warmer climate may also affect the spread of salmonella infections and the incidence of dengue fever, while more frequent droughts and floods can threaten the supply of fresh food and the ability of people to eat healthy food, she warned.
Scientific Professor Beggs said that accelerating measures are also needed in the field of renewable energy, given that Australia is relying heavily on high-carbon energy sources.
"We were one of the leaders in terms of renewable energy, but the other countries have overtaken us," he said.
He suggested one reason why the lack of political action in Australia was the decline of media stories about the impact of climate change on health and on measures taken by other countries.
The report has seen a 50 percent reduction in media stories about health and climate change in Australia over the last decade, compared to a 78% increase in global coverage of newspapers.
"It is related that at the same time there is no political commitment to health and climate change in Australia," he said.