Canavan ridicules climate health report, days after climate health expert wins Liberal safe seat

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Canavan dismisses Queensland government report on climate impacts as “imaginary threats of a climate induced drug outbreak.”

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Matt Canavan. Not a happy herb.
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Federal resources minster Matt Canavan has ridiculed a Queensland Labor government report on the health impacts of climate change – and how best to minimise them – in the latest sign the Morrison government has no intention whatever of taking global warming seriously.

The 63-page report, released by Queensland (Labor) health minister Steven Miles on Tuesday, was put together by Griffith University’s National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) and the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA).

It pinpointed a broad range of industry concerns about a range of climate impacts on health and wellbeing, including farmers’ mental distress from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, and heat stress on vulnerable communities.

Stakeholders – including from government, universities, the health sector, and aged and childcare workers – also voiced concerns about food and water insecurity, malnutrition, worsening chronic, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, and children’s health and development.

But Canavan, who appears to have a new role in the Coalition Cabinet as minister for Not Taking Climate Science Seriously, dismissed the work as seemingly drug influenced, and based on “imaginary” threats.

“This report reads like it was written during poetry slam night at the happy herb cafe,” the senator reportedly told The Courier-Mail, a Murdoch newspaper, on Wednesday.

“The Queensland Government should focus less on the imaginary threats of a climate induced drug outbreak and more on the real issues of waiting lists and health services for Queenslanders.”

Canavan should note, however, that the 71 Queenslanders who contributed to this report also pointed to a lack of consistent political support for climate action as a “significant challenge,” which created other barriers including lack of funding and resourcing for climate change adaptation.

“Politicisation and polarisation of climate change in parliament, the mass media and society in general was seen to have created unhelpful and conflicting community attitudes and a hostile environment for sectoral or societal planning and action,” the report notes.

But Canavan, who can claim credit for a good deal of this “politicisation and polarisation,” instead chose to focus on one line documenting reported localised concerns in far northern Queensland for “vulnerable communities such as the aged and injecting drug users.”

The Coalition, generally, were also reportedly scandalised that the report suggested a focus on possible financial and legal drivers to help drive adaptation and climate risk management at whole-of-government and Department of Treasury levels, and within the sector.

Mainstream media reports focused on this line, in particular:

“Consideration should be given to public–private partnerships, redirection of subsidies that support activities harmful to health and climate stability, and application of levies or taxes on external drivers (e.g. ‘the polluter pays’ principle for the health and environmental costs of activities which traditionally have not been accounted for).”

Canavan, meanwhile, in his comments about “slam poetry” and the “happy herb cafe,” dismisses the genuine and well researched concerns of a community he is supposed to represent.

Concerns including rising poverty and inequality, socioeconomic disadvantage, breakdown of community and family networks, access to sustainable, climate-resilient transport (especially in regional areas), affordable housing and energy options.

In fact, Canavan and his band of merry deniers in the LNP, right up to the PM, are willingly ignoring the increasingly numerous reports, and other blindingly clear signs and messages, that most Australians care a great deal about acting on climate change.

Like The Australia Institute’s latest annual Climate of the Nation report, which finds 73 per cent of Australians claiming to be concerned about climate change (up from 66% in 2017), and looking to the government to act.

As that wild hippy (economist) and ex-leader of the Liberal Party John Hewson noted of the TAI’s findings, it “shows that Australians support far more ambitious climate and energy policies than governments of either persuasion have delivered.

“Australians are rightly concerned about the impacts of heat and rising temperatures and they support policies to transition our electricity sector away from coal and towards clean renewable energy.”

Another hint that people might actually care about climate action was delivered over the weekend, via the Liberal Party’s resounding defeat in the NSW Riverina seat of Wagga Wagga, held by the Libs since 1957.

As we reported here, the closely watched by-election was won by Independent Joe McGirr, a medical doctor and professor at the University of Notre Dame who is a proud supporter of climate action and renewable energy.

As it would happen, one of his areas of research expertise is the very subject of the Queensland government report, on which he co-authored a paper in 2014, titled “Preparing rural general practitioners and health services for climate change and extreme weather.”

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