Climate change

Climate change can affect human health including through rising heat, changing rainfall patterns including floods and drought, and climate-sensitive air quality issues. The Australian Government is focused on developing a sustainable and responsive health system through a range of programs.

Health impacts of climate change

Climate change can affect human health including through:

  • rising heat
  • changing rainfall patterns causing floods or drought
  • climate-sensitive air quality issues
  • changing vectorborne, waterborne or foodborne infectious diseases
  • reduced nutritional value of crops.

As a result, some of the direct impacts of climate change on health include:

  • heat-related morbidity and mortality
  • increased respiratory illnesses
  • rising injuries and fatalities due to extreme weather events.  


Bushfire season in Australia is becoming longer and more intense due to climate change. The main health risk associated with bushfires is smoke inhalation.

Common symptoms of exposure to bushfire smoke can include:

  • eye, nose, mouth and throat irritation
  • coughing including producing sputum
  • sneezing
  • congestion.

Learn more about the impacts of bushfire smoke on air quality

Visit healthdirect to learn more about protecting your health, preparing for a natural disaster, and which health conditions put you at greater risk of harm during a bushfire.


Climate change is causing longer, drier and hotter summers.

A heatwave can affect your health quickly and unexpectedly. The main risks of a heatwave are: 

Visit healthdirect to learn more about the health risks of heatwaves and how to keep cool.


Flooding is becoming more common in Australia due to the impacts of climate change on our water cycle.

The main health risks associated with heavy rain and flooding are water supply contamination and increased mosquito-borne diseases.

Visit healthdirect to learn more about the health risks of flooding and how to avoid them.

Building a sustainable health system

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is the main department responsible for coordinating how the Australian Government adapts to climate change. Every 5 years the department issues the State of the Environment report. The report provides an independent, comprehensive and evidence-based assessment of the state of Australia’s environment.

The Australian Government is taking strong action to build climate resilience for our future generations. As part of its response, we are focused on developing a sustainable and responsive health system.

The National Health and Medical Research Council is increasing climate and health research capacity and capability through the Special Initiative in Human Health and Environmental Change. The initiative will help strengthen our health system’s resilience, preparedness, and responsiveness to changing environmental conditions and extreme weather events.

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