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.
Who we are
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.
Why climate, energy and health?
Direct and indirect climate-related health impacts are being experienced all around the world including southern Africa, such as drought and heat waves leading to 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 end of 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.
Fossil fuels (principally coal, oil and gas) 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 kills approximately 7 million people every year, 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.
Goal of the Climate, Energy and Health (CEH) Special Interest Group (SIG)
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.
CEH Community of Practice
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 a 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 meet 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;
- Encourage PHASA to seek out partnerships with complementary global health and climate movements.
How to join this group?
Any PHASA member with a keen interest in climate, energy and health is welcome to join the CEH SIG.
James Irlam is a Senior Lecturer in the Primary Health Care Directorate at the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences. He is an associate of the of Environmental Health Division in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine and a course convener on the MPH Environmental Health track. He is a graduate of the MPhil (Epidemiology) and the MSc (Climate Change and Development) programmes at UCT.
James is a teacher, researcher and advocate for mitigating climate change and improving public health by means of healthy energy and lifestyle choices.
Organisation: University of Cape Town
SIG Chair (Climate, Energy and Health)
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