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Push for climate change on G20 list

By Dan Harrison (Sydney Morning Herald) - August 11, 2014

Three former Australians of the Year, including Nobel laureate Peter Doherty, have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott calling for climate change to be included on the agenda for the G20 leaders summit to be held in Brisbane in November.

Epidemiologist Fiona Stanley and immunologist Sir Gustav Nossal are among a dozen health experts supporting the call, published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

”Current climate trends, driven by global warming, threaten the basis of future economic prosperity, regional political stability and human health,” the letter says.

The letter states that the risks climate change posed to human health included more intense heatwaves, floods and fires, and the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Climate change-related water shortages would threaten hygiene and yields of food from agriculture as well as supplies of drinking water, while the warming and acidification of oceans would endanger marine food sources, the letter says.

”Infections such as gastroenteritis increase with warming, as do levels of hazardous air pollutants. Threats to rural and coastal assets and livelihoods will adversely affect mental health,” it says.

”This issue warrants urgent consideration at the G20 meeting. The health of present and future generations is at risk from ongoing human-induced climate change.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott confirmed that as the host nation, Australia set the agenda for the meeting in consultation with other G20 member nations.

The spokeswoman said climate change issues would be discussed as part of broader discussions about energy.

”The PM wants a small number of agenda items to ensure that the G20 discussions are focused and deliver on the economic growth agenda,” the spokeswoman said.

In an interview also published in the journal, United States economist Jeffrey Sachs, a special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on development, said it was not possible to end global poverty without tackling climate change.

”The G20 countries are the world’s most important economies … If the G20 gets its house in order, the world can be saved. If not, the G20 will wreck the world, pure and simple … Brisbane is therefore crucial.”