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Action on climate change: no time to delay

Rosalie E Woodruff, Anthony J McMichael and Simon Hales
Med J Aust 2006; 184 (11): 539-540.
Published online: 5 June 2006

Global warming is real, so what are we going to do about it, who will do it, and when?

Climate change is now widely acknowledged as the greatest environmental threat that human civilisation faces.1 During 2005 there was a perceptible shift in scientific assessment of the consequences of increasing greenhouse gas accumulation in Earth’s atmosphere. Normally cautious climate scientists went on record with warnings that potentially unstoppable “runaway” climate change is now becoming a real risk. The faster than expected melting of Greenland ice, slowing of ocean currents, and possible reversal of terrestrial ecosystems (see Box) from carbon “sinks” to net sources of carbon dioxide emissions are prominent examples of non-linear change. Impacts of climate change on the biosphere are now clear, including melting of polar ice, shrinking of glaciers, and shifts in the biotic cycles and behaviours of birds, insects and plants. International assessments have sounded serious environmental alarms before, but the emerging evidence on climate change now brings an unprecedented urgency to policy debates. In the past year, public (and belatedly, political) discussion in Australia has moved on from questioning whether there is a human influence on climate change. The questions now being framed are what we should be doing about this, and who should be responsible?

  • Rosalie E Woodruff1
  • Anthony J McMichael1
  • Simon Hales2

  • 1 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
  • 2 Housing and Health Research Programme, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.


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