Human health is intricately connected with our natural environment. The way we live influences our environment, and our environment influences our health and wellbeing. Climate change – one of the greatest environmental challenges with which we are faced – impacts human health in both direct and indirect ways. For example, the direct deaths and injuries arising from an extreme weather event such as a flood or heatwave, as well as the indirect impacts borne by food insecurity from the destruction of agricultural crops due to flooding, drought or other extreme weather events.
At its heart, climate change is an issue of justice. The health impacts of climate change are inequitably distributed both globally and within countries. This is starkly evident in parts of Australia and within our Indo-Pacific neighbourhood. Many communities and certain population groups are at higher levels of health-related risk from climate change, including children, those living in poverty, First Nations peoples, and those with underlying health conditions. The climate-related health impacts on these groups are often profound and result in the disproportionate experience of negative health outcomes. These impacts are often interconnected with other forms of inequity, such as financial and social inequity. Consequently, a proactive and integrated approach that has justice at its core is required to adequately address the interconnected threads that impact our health and wellbeing.
By applying a health and justice lens during policy and program development, we can ensure that the healthiest climate policies and actions – those that prioritise human health, wellbeing and justice – are pursued. This approach facilitates the development of ambitious, win–win solutions that benefit all members of our current and future communities.
Professor Kathryn Bowen, Professor of Environment, Climate and Global Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health; Deputy Director – Knowledge Translation and Policy Impact, Melbourne Climate Futures, Professor of Law, Melbourne Law School; Director of Melbourne Climate Futures
Early career researcher co-lead
Dr Belle Workman, Research Fellow, Melbourne Climate Futures
Grants and Resources
Projects and Initiatives
The multiple health benefits of climate mitigation measures
MCF received funding from the European Union to create a peer-reviewed, evidence-based infographic to support policy makers across sectors to understand the substantial health co-benefits that can result from the implementation of mitigation measures.
If you refer to or use our infographic, please cite it accordingly:
Melbourne Climate Futures (2022). The multiple health benefits of climate mitigation measures.
Thank you to the 14 domestic and international climate and health experts who peer-reviewed the tool.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union’s Partnership Instrument. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the University of Melbourne and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
In June 2022, we also presented a session at the Sustainability Research Innovation (SRI) Congress 2022 on Maximising planetary and human success through a co-benefits approach to policy development with colleagues from around the world. Please email us at Melbournefirstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further information.
APRU Climate Change Simulation
In 2021 and 2022, we participated in the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) Climate Change Simulation: a global, role-playing exercise in which students form multi-country, multi-disciplinary teams to play the role of delegates to the UN climate change negotiations.
We financially supported five students to participate each year, as well as providing content and expert facilitators to enhance student learning.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Prof. Kathryn Bowen, Deputy Director (Knowledge Translation and Policy Impact) and Academic Lead of the Health, Wellbeing and Climate Justice Research Program has participated in several webinars as a Lead Author of the Health Chapter for the IPCC’s Working Group II report, published in March 2022:
Hydrogen and health
With colleagues affiliated with the Centre for Air pollution, energy and health Research (CAR), Dr Belle Workman is leading a scoping review of the health impacts of hydrogen across its lifecycle.
If you’d like to be informed of updates on this project as it progresses, please contact us at Melbourneemail@example.com
Earth System Governance (ESG) Working Group on Planetary Health Justice
We are establishing a Working Group on Planetary Health Justice under the Earth System Governance project banner.
The new Working Group will:
- support transdisciplinary and innovative research collaborations between researchers across disciplines, institutions, agencies and countries;
- facilitate the transfer of knowledge and lessons learned, taking into consideration contextual and location-specific factors;
- provide a platform for researchers from the ESG community along with policymakers and practitioners to identify research needs; and
- progress research efforts that extend the existing ESG planetary justice research framework by applying a health lens.
If you are interested in being involved in the Working Group, please contact us at Melbournefirstname.lastname@example.org
Future Earth Health Knowledge-Action Network (Health-KAN)
We are involved in the Future Earth Health-KAN, which includes health researchers, natural and social scientists, policy experts, policy makers and government leaders, as well as the private sector and civil society.
By bringing people together, the network helps to build an integrated understanding of our changing global environment and the health and wellbeing of humans.
Prof Kathryn Bowen and Dr Miriama Young (Faculty of Fine Arts and Music) have received funding to progress the Sonic Youth project. Sonic Youth is a participatory sound-music project that engages young Victorian people with issues of ecology and sustainability, using music as the connector.
Participants will upload soundscape recordings from a place that is meaningful to them. Composer-sound artist Monica Lim will then create a publicly accessible web portal where sounds can be combined and shared with peers in a form of digital communal music-making. We will present this collective composition at the Melbourne Recital Centre with a new piece of chamber music composed by Miriama Young, performed by pianist Aura Go and French horn player Carla Blackwood.
For further information, contact us at Melbourneemail@example.com
Accelerating Just and Rapid Energy Transitions
We continue to progress work on energy transitions with our international colleagues and in February 2022, we hosted a roundtable including policymakers, academics, unionists, and community development practitioners from Australia, Germany and Poland. We discussed interventions that have worked well and provide opportunities for communities most impacted by the energy transition.
The roundtable was complemented by country briefings, and interviews and surveys with relevant experts. It was found that in the absence of top-down political leadership, diverse coalitions of grassroots actors need to lead discussions and planning around just transitions for impacted regions, with a focus on justice, inclusive processes, and place-based solutions.
You can read more on the findings of this work in the following publication:
Please note that this publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union’s Partnership Instrument. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the University of Melbourne and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
Better Futures Australia Health Care Sector Working Group
We are a member of the Better Futures Australia Health Care Sector Working Group, which includes a diverse range of representatives from across the health care sector that are working together to progress efforts on climate change and health action. This includes working to support the federal government with implementing a national climate and health strategy and decarbonising the health care sector.