Open letter from Australian Health Professionals to AHPRA regarding the climate emergency

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We, the undersigned are Australian Health Practitioners registered with AHPRA. We are united by our concern about the climate emergency and its impact on the safety, health and wellbeing of the global population. We stand with health practitioners from around the world who have expressed their distress and professional concern about the looming ecological disaster and the impact on the planet and its inhabitants [i]. We are writing to ask for assurance that should we choose to resort to Non-Violent Direct Action (civil disobedience), that our AHPRA registration would not be negatively impacted.

A climate catastrophe is imminent. Reputable worldwide organisations, such as NASA [ii], the United Nations IPCC [iii], and the World Health Organisation [iv] have predicted devastating results if we fail to act urgently against climate change. If we remain on our current trajectory, the problems predicted include widespread famine, natural disasters, epidemics, and societal upheaval. Unsurprisingly, these organisations emphasise urgent, drastic, global action to mitigate against the worst impacts of climate change.

As health professionals, we are especially concerned about the impact of climate change on our populations’ health and wellbeing. In 2009, the UCL Lancet Commission warned that climate change is the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century” [v]. We are already witnessing acute trauma experienced locally and globally as a result of increasing extreme weather events. We cannot ignore predictions of increasing climate related migration and conflict and the risk of societal collapse that may result. The impending climate catastrophe poses an unprecedented risk to the physical and mental health of the global population.

As registered professionals who value evidence-based practice, we cannot ignore the overwhelming body of scientific evidence regarding the impending climate disaster. We acknowledge that there are normal psychological processes that have limited humans from accepting and acting on the available information from experts [vi]. In part, it is simply too distressing to face the increasingly dire consequences of inaction. Therefore, the responsibility is on our leaders to direct the appropriate action. As our counterparts overseas have emphasised, it is unethical for governments to fail to adequately inform the general public of the costs of maintaining business as usual [vii]. It will be a massive task to avoid catastrophic climate change and we need radical action now.  

Despite the threat, there is hope. The solutions required to combat climate change already exist and are being implemented, albeit in far smaller scales than necessary to address the current crisis [viii]. We need our leaders and policy makers to invest in these evidence-based solutions.

Unfortunately, governments world-wide – including the Australia Federal Government – continue to invest in fossil fuels, unsustainable agriculture, deforestation and other endeavours proven to exacerbate climate change[ix]. The members of our Federal Government are abdicating their responsibility to properly consider the empirical evidence and opinion of reputable experts worldwide. Through their inaction on climate change, they are directing us without pause into the impending catastrophe.

Given this reality, Non-Violent Direct Action has become a reasonable choice for responsible individuals. History and recent events demonstrate the effectiveness of persistent, peaceful protest. Most recently, Non-Violent Direct Action has been utilised to have a climate emergency declared by countries including England, Ireland, France and Canada. Major cities across Australia including Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart form part of the 30 Australian jurisdictions, representing approximately 3 million Australians, that have declared a climate emergency [x].  The method of Non-Violent Direct Action has enabled the media to publicise the complex but vital message that the climate emergency requires immediate and drastic action.

Our concern is that as Australian health practitioners, engaging in Non-Violent Direct Action may compromise our AHPRA registration. We are specifically concerned about the impact on our registration if we were to be arrested as a result of taking Non-Violent Direct Action to bring attention to the climate change emergency. While at present we are not aware of an instance of Non-Violent Direct-Action impacting registration, we see potential for this to change in an increasingly heated political climate.

As such, in addition to voicing our concern about the risk to health and wellbeing of the global population, we ask for assurance from AHPRA that there will be no risk to our registration as a result of participation in Non-Violent Direct Action.

We thank you for your time and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Concerned Health Practitioners of Australia.

 



[i] The Cancer of Climate Change (open letter) https://cancerofclimatechange.org/about/; Psychologists and the Trauma of Climate Change – An open letter demanding immediate and effective action.
[ii] https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
[iii] Health, environment and climate change: Draft WHO global strategy on health, environment and climate change: the transformation needed to improve lives and well-being sustainably through healthy environments (2019). https://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA72/A72_15-en.pdf
[iv] Health, environment and climate change: Draft WHO global strategy on health, environment and climate change: the transformation needed to improve lives and well-being sustainably through healthy environments (2019). https://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA72/A72_15-en.pdf
[v] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60935-1/fulltext
[vi] Coping with climate change distress. Australian Psychological Society.
[vii] The Cancer of Climate Change (open letter) https://cancerofclimatechange.org/about/
[viii] Drawdown - the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming – edited by Paul Hawken. 2017.
[ix] Drawdown - the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming – edited by Paul Hawken. 2017.
[x] https://climateemergencydeclaration.org/climate-emergency-declarations-cover-15-million-citizens/