Aboriginal Population and Climate Change in Australia: Implications for Health and Adaptation Planning
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
The health impacts of climate are widely recognised, and extensive modelling is available on predicted changes to climate globally. The impact of these changes may affect populations differently depending on a range of factors, including geography, socioeconomics and culture. This study reviewed current evidence on the health risks of climate change for Australian Aboriginal populations and linked Aboriginal demographic data to historical and projected climate data to describe the distribution of climate-related exposures in Aboriginal compared to non-Aboriginal populations in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The study showed Aboriginal populations were disproportionately exposed to a range of climate extremes in heat, rainfall and drought, and this disproportionate exposure was predicted to increase with climate change over the coming decades. Aboriginal people currently experience higher rates of climate-sensitive health conditions and soci-oeconomic disadvantages, which will impact their capacity to adapt to climate change. Climate change may also adversely affect cultural practices. These factors will likely impact the health and well-being of Aboriginal people in NSW and inhibit measures to close the gap in health between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations. Climate change, health and equity need to be key considerations in all policies at all levels of government. Effective Aboriginal community engagement is urgently needed to develop and implement climate adaptation responses to improve health and social service preparedness and secure environmental health infrastructure such as drinking water supplies and suitably managed social housing. Further Aboriginal-led research is required to identify the cultural impacts of climate change on health, including adaptive responses based on Aboriginal knowledges.
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