In light of the forthcoming IPCC report, an editorial in the BMJ, written by Fiona Godlee (BMJ Editor), Hugh Montgomery (UCL), Sabaratnam Arulkumaran (BMA President) and David McCoy (Medact Chair), has called for immediate and transformative action on climate change. They are urging for this change to take place at every level: individual, local, national and international; personal, political and financial.
They draw attention to the IPCC’s warning of ‘tipping points’ in the earth’s system, which, if crossed, could lead to a catastrophic collapse of interlinked human and natural systems.
Citing Barts Health NHS trust as an example of a health system organisation that is acting responsibly to reduce their carbon footprint, they call on similar institutions to follow suit.
The group argue that adaption to climate change has the potential to be a win-win for the environment and human health. By cutting down on meat, reducing our energy bills, divesting from fossil fuels and investing in green energy, we can combat rising obesity, save large amounts of money for health systems and reduce the rate of disease exacerbated by air pollution.
They conclude by calling upon health professionals to push for their organizations (universities, hospitals, primary care providers, medical societies, drug and device companies) to divest from fossil fuel industries and to reinvest in renewable energy sources. They encourage health professionals to use their influence to change the minds and behaviour of other influencers.
They also call for greater interaction between health professionals and the public, media, governments and intergovernmental bodies to provide a strong and unified message—that climate change is real and is the result of human activity; that it is already affecting people around the world and is the greatest current threat to human health and survival; and that there are many positive and practical things we can do systematically and at scale to avert its worst effects.
Medact will be releasing a briefing next week with its partners the Global Climate and Health Alliance. Together we are currently developing a short report and set of accompanying infographics which will unpack what is currently known about the health impacts of climate change, as well as the scope for immense health benefits from action to reduce emissions.