OUR FUTURE | Leaders must act on climate change now

Working within the medical and health sector means I have seen first-hand the effects climate change is already inflicting on our wellbeing.

Increasing storms, heat waves and natural disasters amplify the traffic that comes through our door. We see more people than ever with heat-related illness, respiratory issues due to storms and injuries from natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.

There’s no questioning climate change is taking its toll - and this is only the beginning.

While at state level there are good initiatives taking place to prevent impacts, Australia is still trailing the world on taking action on climate change.

The "it’s too late" belief, and the excuse that it’s “too far into the future to contemplate”, have combined to bring on a failure of both leadership and collective decision-making.

The worst affected by climate-related health impacts are generally the very old, the very young and people with existing health issues.

Why is it we have to wait for this to affect less vulnerable people, rather than taking action while we still can?

With a policy vacuum on climate change, it seems the general public are the ones who will need to act for the sake of our own wellbeing.

This doesn’t mean each and every one of us needs to get on the streets and rally for action, but it does mean we can start the discussion in our local organisations - as farmers, nurses, first responders - we must do what we can to help.

Time is short. If we want to re-frame the debate, we need to drag our leaders along so they have no choice but to listen.

Climate change is already affecting our society, let’s initiate change before it really is too late for all of us.

Dr Marianne Cannon is an emergency physician based in Northern Rivers NSW.