Report: Aborigines to Suffer From Climate Change

CANBERRA, Australia -- Aborigines in the harsh Outback will be among the Australians hardest hit by climate change, with higher rates of disease and even spiritual suffering when forced to see their ancestral lands ravaged, according to a medical journal report.

As one of the world's hottest and driest continents, most experts agree Australia is particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

The continent's remote Outback region is home to many Aborigines, an impoverished minority of 21 million who on average die 17 years younger than their fellow Australians.

The report in the most recent Medical Journal of Australia urges federal and state governments to act immediately to mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change in the Outback, including higher rates of mosquito-spread dengue fever and communicable diseases such as bacterial diarrhea.

Because of Aborigines' close connection to tribal land, land degradation due to climate change will affect their health as well, the report says.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said in a statement late Wednesday her government recognizes the need to assess the impact of climate change on indigenous communities.

Australian National University indigenous health expert Amanda Barnard said she agrees with many of the conclusions of the report, which was authored by Donna Green, a New South Wales University climate change researcher; Australian National University researcher Ursula King, and indigenous land manager Joe Morrison.

"It's true indigenous people in remote and rural areas -- there's just not access to services yet," said Barnard, who did not contribute to the report.

The government last year announced a 200,000 Australian dollar ($132,000) study of how climate change will impact the health, environment, infrastructure, education and employment of northern Aboriginal communities.