A network of practitioners, decision-makers, researchers, lobbyists, students and academics, among others, working in the fields of public health, energy and fossil fuels, and climate vulnerability and change.
We are based at different institutions and organisations around South Africa, including the health system, universities, NGOs, research councils, health professional organisations and civil society organisations.
Direct and indirect climate-related health impacts are being experienced all around the world including southern Africa. The impacts of current El Nino of 2015/2016, for example, on drought and heat waves are already evidenced by severe water shortages and crop failures. In addition to addressing the acute effects of these major events, long-term, chronic impacts also require attention particularly as the predicted increase in ambient temperature for southern Africa is 4 degrees Celsius by the 21st Century. By causing or intensifying extreme weather events, food and water insecurity, and the migration of infectious diseases, climate change exacerbates existing public health challenges globally and in southern Africa.
Fossil fuels are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The production of fossil fuel-based energy creates co-pollutants that pose marked public health risks to local and regional populations. Fossil fuel combustion is the largest source of air pollution, which was responsible for approximately 7 million premature deaths in 2012, making it the world’s largest environmental health risk.
Leading medical journals and health professional organizations have endorsed the evidence and amplified the message that air pollution and climate change pose serious challenges to global public health and therefore must be addressed as public health issues. Strategies to mitigate climate change – including shifting to low-carbon and clean sources of energy production – can yield significant co-benefits to public health such as reductions in heart disease, respiratory disease, and cancer.
The main goal of this SIG is to bring together public health experts, climate modellers and experts, and also experts from other relevant disciplines to understand the intersection of climate, energy, and health in southern Africa, in order to facilitate multi-disciplinary research and provide evidence for informed policy development and decision-making across the region.
The South African and global public health community has a unique opportunity to serve as an interlocutor between the scientific evidence on the harmful effects of fossil fuel-based energy generation and the health benefits of policies that mitigate air pollution and climate change by transitioning to clean, renewable energy and other low-carbon strategies. In addition, the adaptation responses to climate change are both diverse, and in some instances, themselves with risk to health. The SIG, through its research, advocacy and multi-disciplinary approaches within PHASA, provides an opportunity to address the impacts of these interventions on health outcomes. Together, we aim to meeting the following objectives:
Provide information on climate, energy, and health to the broader South African society through various media through PHASA;
Engage for a broad cross-section of health sector partners to advocate for healthy energy policy, prevent climate and air pollution-related diseases, and promote approaches for healthy living and partnering with other civil society organisations and providing support and advocacy for affected communities;
Host meetings, workshops or symposia aligned to climate, energy, and health topics for researchers, health practitioners and students, as well as affected / vulnerable communities;
Help co-ordinate collaboration between researchers, especially those from different disciplines and encouraging its members to publish research articles and relevant materials;
Advocate for health impact assessment and health economic evaluations to be integrated in decision-making on energy projects and energy policy i.e., with considerations for worker safety and health; environmental impacts; air, soil and water pollution; displacement of communities; economic and social disruption; health equity concerns; and contribution to climate change; and
Encourage PHASA to seek out partnerships with complementary global health and climate movements.
Any PHASA member with a keen interest in climate, energy and health is welcome to join the CEH SIG. To register as a PHASA member, complete the online registration form and select the CEH SIG under the Special Interest Groups section. Existing PHASA members who did not sign up for the SIG during the initial registration can update their profiles on the PHASA website.
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