A sustainable future in health: ensuring as health professionals our own house is in order and leading by example

Nicholas J Talley
Med J Aust 2020; 212 (8): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50574
Published online: 4 May 2020

It is time for health professionals to step up and lead to ensure a sustainable environment and health

The year 2020 is fast becoming the year of planetary crises, from global warming and the unprecedented bushfire season in Australia over the summer to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2) pandemic striking around the globe, with its health and financial implications.1,2,3 Social media is littered with often uninformed opinions about both issues, from those unconcerned and arguing the problems are exaggerated or worse to those who are deeply concerned and searching for better solutions. The facts about the climate crisis and health are more stark, as pointed out by Madden and Capon4 in this issue of the Journal and by the most recent LancetMJA countdown report5 — overwhelming evidence points to a warming planet because of human activity and to the potential for very severe adverse health consequences, including other infectious disease outbreaks, if prompt action is not taken now. The recent unprecedented bushfire season may have shifted views about the potential for severe impacts of global warming on health, just as the unfolding health crisis with COVID‐19 has highlighted how vulnerable our health systems are to new pathogens. There has not been political inertia in the United Kingdom, where all sides of politics recognise the global emergency we all face because of climate change.6 However, more effective political action is needed here and around the world in terms of ensuring a sustainable future.

  • Nicholas J Talley

  • University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW

Competing interests:

Nicholas Talley is Editor‐in‐Chief of the Medical Journal of Australia. A complete list of disclosures is available at


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