Health professionals must show leadership in tackling the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, according to an editorial in this week’s British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Dr Robin Stott of the Climate and Health Council, together with BMJ Editor Fiona Godlee and Lancet Editor Richard Horton, believe that health professionals have a duty to be part of the solution, and urge readers to sign the Climate and Health Council declaration (see below link).
“The present climate related extinction event, so far a minor one, is caused by humans”, they write. “Excessive amounts of carbon dioxide are being poured into the atmosphere as a result of human activity, even though we know what the consequences will be.”
They outline several ways in which health professionals should act, which include:
- Informing professional colleagues and the wider community about the health consequences of climate change, and the major health benefits that will result from tackling it.
- Setting an example by reducing our personal carbon footprints and ensuring that the organisations we work for do likewise.
- Making a concerted effort to contribute to the post Kyoto framework, and to lobby at the United Nations’ conferences on climate change in Bali in December and then in Copenhagen in November 2009.
- Seeking innovative approaches to using networks, such as specialty associations, to facilitate the necessary changes to recruit as many organisations, institutions, and individuals as possible.
Climate change challenges the health of everybody, they say, but particularly of people with the fewest resources: “It is the major challenge of the 21st century. Unless we cap carbon emissions in ways that ensure transfer of resources to the poorer nations, we may all go the way of the dinosaurs, and the going will not be comfortable.”