The past decade has seen an increasing research focus on the health impacts of climate change. A special themed issue of the Sax Institute’s flagship journal Public health research and practice explores the subject in an array of articles chosen by co-Guest Editors Dr Anthony Capon, the inaugural Professor of Planetary Health at the University of Sydney, and Dr Carlos Corvalan, Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney.
One article, which has garnered widespread media attention, warns that climate change could lead to a rise in dangerous, and even fatal, allergic attacks – as occurred in Melbourne’s deadly 2016 ‘thunderstorm asthma event’. The review of recent research on climate change and allergy suggests higher temperatures and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will significantly boost levels of allergens in the air, such as grass pollen.
Australia, however, is woefully unprepared for this eventuality. Monitoring of allergens is patchy, and little research has been done on local climates and allergens.
Other research in this issue includes a paper on extreme events in the context of climate change. Building resilience to events such as heatwaves and drought is the best safeguard against threats to our health resulting from climate change, the authors argue. Another article on built environment interventions argues that landscapers, architects, urban planners and designers play a critical role in addressing the health impacts of climate change.
“Built environment interventions must move beyond simple ecological sustainability to encouraging ways of life that are healthy for both humans and the planet,” write Associate Professor Jason Prior of the University of Technology Sydney and colleagues.
“These papers and current evidence point to the urgent need for stronger action on climate change to protect the health and wellbeing of current and future generations,” write Professor Capon and Dr Corvalan in the issue’s editorial.