Letter to the Editor: Why vets should care about climate change

Dear sir;

It occurred to me recently that talking about climate change is a lot like talking with a client about their pet’s cancer… “Come in, please have a seat. I’m afraid I have some bad news. I know this is upsetting, but we have some options to help and they’re not as bad as you may think…”

The problem
We’re trained in interpreting the peer-reviewed scientific literature, and the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that climate change is already occurring as predicted and will continue to worsen without timely action. This is certainly compelling – but what makes it a veterinary issue?

Veterinarians are charged with the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, and the promotion of public health. Climate change threatens animal health, welfare and public health, and risks domestic and wild animal suffering.

Wildlife exposed to flood or bushfire, or whose habitat is changing excessively (climate change doesn’t cause floods or bushfires; but it increases the frequency and severity of both) are at risk of suffering. Heatwaves stress koalas and platypus, and individuals cannot extend their ranges sufficiently to adjust. Hot weather also reduces the nutritional quality of eucalyptus leaves, and when koalas travel for better conditions they become vulnerable to predators and trauma. Domestic pets and production animals also suffer in heatwaves, floods and bushfires: over 1,000,000 animals are estimated to have died in the Black Saturday fires. Continue reading Letter to the Editor: Why vets should care about climate change

EcoVet: Seeing the carbon for the trees

The recent climate change debate has descended into a farce and not only just in Australia. There has however been considerable comment recently about carbon bio-sequestration and soil carbon in particular. The Wentworth group have a new publication “Optimising Soil Carbon in the Australian landscape” which is well worth reading, in this monograph it is clearly demonstrated that the potential annual sequestration of soil carbon is many times greater than the Australian production of green house gasses. The problem remains however that the only way to economically suck carbon out of the atmosphere is via photosynthesis which is through the sun providing the energy to build up complex carbon compounds which are incorporated into plant tissues that ultimately end up in other living things or remain sequestrated in an organic form in the soil. Humans are able to short circuit this process in a number of ways with one of the most effective being the production of “bio-char” – a charcoal material resulting from pyrolysis of organic material. The only problem is that currently the cost of all of these alternatives, especially pyrolysis, remains too high. Continue reading EcoVet: Seeing the carbon for the trees