The Telethon Kids Institute at Perth Children’s Hospital does incredible work. It’s part of the $10 million HEAL network that aims to “address climate-related challenges” to health, such as air pollution, deadly bushfires and dwindling food security.
But through Telethon it accepts support from three of the fossil fuel companies that are contributing to those very problems: Woodside, Chevron and South32.
Every junior lifesaver in WA gets a free uniform with Woodside’s logo.Credit:Nippers website
For more than a decade, Australian doctors have been sounding alarms about the devastating impacts that fossil fuels and global warming are having on our physical and mental health.
Deaths caused by air pollution from fossil fuel combustion are estimated to be 8 million annually, around one in five deaths globally. In Australia, an estimated 2600 people die prematurely each year from air pollution – double the amount that die in car crashes.
A recent study estimated that between 2000 and 2019, more than 5 million annual premature deaths were attributable to a warming climate.
And yet Perth Children’s Hospital has a Santos Family Room at its Ronald McDonald House for family accommodation.
Our hospitals are still promoting the fossil fuel companies whose products are responsible for around 89 per cent of global warming.
It doesn’t end with healthcare. Our local councils manage billboards, bus shelters and venues that accept fossil fuel advertising. Western Australia has countless festivals, awards and events sponsored by companies whose products are damaging our health and climate.
Woodside covers the uniforms of our young surf lifesavers with its name.
Some of our most prominent cultural heroes, including Tim Winton and Midnight Oil, are calling out the relentless use of sponsorships and advertising in Western Australia that perpetuates and protects the extraction and sale of fossil fuels.
As Perth doctors, we are joining the hundreds of health workers who have signed an open letter from the Fossil Ad Ban campaign demanding that governments now ban this marketing.
Banning advertising and sponsorships by such a large sector of the economy may seem impossible at first, but it is simpler than you think.
Tobacco ads and sponsorships have been banned. Alcohol and gambling ads are restricted. Other products require warning labels or labels that highlight their environmental performance or nutritional value. Why restrict marketing for these products but not those that pose the biggest threat of all?
Stopping the promotion of coal, oil and gas does not stop us using the products when they are needed. It just prevents the companies from increasing demand, wielding disproportionate influence and greenwashing – pretending they are tackling climate change when they are clearly not.
The City of Sydney and six other east coast councils have voted to restrict fossil fuel ads and sponsorships. It’s time Perth’s councils also take a stand.
State government projections show that by 2050, Perth will suffer a 40 per cent increase in high fire-danger days, sea levels that are 24 centimetres higher, and more extreme rainfall. Our way of life is under threat.
Banning fossil fuel marketing will help disentangle our public institutions from the insidious influence of fossil fuel corporations, and allow us all to create a cleaner, safer and healthier future.
Carolyn Orr is a Perth neurologist and Richard Yin is a Perth GP.
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