Australia seems reluctant to act on climate change, but ironically it could be amongst the hardest hit.
Climate change wake-up call
Milanda Rout, environment reporter
CLIMATE change is inevitable and is likely to cause an increase in heat exhaustion, stroke, heart attacks and asthma.
A Federal Government study says Australia should expect higher temperatures, more droughts and severe storms. Temperatures could rise by up to 6C by 2070, affecting native plants and animals, damaging urban areas and threatening agriculture.
"There is little doubt Australia will face some degree of climate change over the next 30 to 50 years," it said.
"Irrespective of global or local efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions."
Environment Minister Ian Campbell said the report was a wake-up call but he denied Australia needed to sign the Kyoto protocol.
The Opposition called on the Government to do something immediately to reduce greenhouse gases or risk being responsible for an environmental tsunami.
The Government's Australian Greenhouse Office found climate change was likely to increase illnesses that occur with higher temperatures.
This includes heatstroke and heart attacks, especially among the elderly, as well as malaria and ross river fever.
Higher temperatures could also mean more cases of food poisoning and an increase in the risk of skin cancer.
"Climatic conditions have wide-ranging impacts of human health, including heatstroke and the patterns of diseases and allergies," the report said.
The risk of water-borne diseases could also increase with more rainfall and huge storms.
The report calls for better building design to help prevent climate-related illnesses and providing more information to the public.
"Public health prevention measures may need to be enhanced to reduce the impact of heat-related illness and death," it said.
The report, titled Climate Change Risks and Vulnerability, also identified areas most vulnerable, including the Great Barrier Reef, the Murray/Darling basin, and the east coast, where cities and suburbs border the beaches.
Senator Campbell said the report was vital for addressing the causes of climate change.
"This report is telling us that regardless of what we do in the future, climate change is a reality . . . and we have to start adapting to it," he said.
Opposition environment spokesman Anthony Albanese called on the Government to do more, including ratifying the Kyoto protocol."What this report and other reports show is that the world is headed for an environmental tsunami," he said. "Sitting back and doing nothing about dangerous climate change is simply not an option."
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