Doctors must step up to the challenge of climate change

Jun 27, 2008

Doctors must lead by example on climate change, according to experts in this week's BMJ. Health professionals were powerful catalysts in changing society's view of smoking from a normal lifestyle choice to that of a harmful addiction, and they must do the same for climate change, writes Professor Mike Gill from the University of Surrey.

The NHS is the largest public sector contributor to climate change in the UK, responsible for generating over 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, about 3% of the UK total.

Despite the NHS recently committing to reducing carbon emissions by at least 60% by 2050, it is not enough, argues Gill, immediate and profound changes in behaviour are needed to avoid irreversible climate change.

He believes that a comparable health emergency occurred in the UK in the 1980s with the HIV epidemic. This, he points out, prompted significant action at all levels, including government awareness campaigns, national surveillance of the effects of behaviour, significant funding, and "the acceptance that this was a problem that demanded attention from health professionals".

A similar collective response on climate change is vital, says Gill, this must begin with health professionals showing patients and governments how serious they are about the challenge of climate change.

In a second personal view, Jenny Griffiths and colleagues from the Climate and Health Council and the Health and Sustainability Network, propose ten practical and inexpensive actions for doctors that could, they say, collectively reduce carbon emissions by up to 5 million tonnes a year—the equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of half a million people in the UK.

They suggest for example, advising patients on lower-carbon diets and walking and cycling instead of car travel; health professionals holding meetings by teleconference, videoconference or web-casting and attending fewer international conferences; doctors advocating locally, especially in primary care, to maximise home insulation and uptake of relevant grants; campaigning on an international level for stabilising the population by promoting literacy and female access to birth control; and putting climate change on the agenda of all meetings.

Doctors are still the professionals that the public trust the most and they must use this influence to change people's behaviour to benefit patients' health and reduce carbon emissions, they conclude.

Source: BMJ-British Medical Journal

Explore further: New research demonstrates benefits of national and international device registries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

World's oldest penguin undergoes cancer radiation

Dec 12, 2014

A toddler on Tuesday peered through thick glass as Tess – the world's oldest African penguin, representing an endangered species set to vanish in the child's lifetime – dove into her pool at the Pueblo Zoo. It was the ...

The RV Investigator's role in marine science

Dec 12, 2014

We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about our deepest oceans, and only 12% of the ocean floor within Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone has so far been mapped.

Recommended for you

New approach to particle therapy dosimetry

9 hours ago

Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), in collaboration with EMRP partners, are working towards a universal approach to particle beam therapy dosimetry.

Supplement maker admits lying about ingredients

Dec 17, 2014

Federal prosecutors say the owner and president of a dietary supplement company has admitted his role in the sale of diluted and adulterated dietary ingredients and supplements sold by his company.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

thinking
5 / 5 (3) Jun 27, 2008
The Enviro-nuts.... want doctors to tell people to reduce carbon emissions?
JerryPark
5 / 5 (2) Jun 27, 2008
Let us hope these brave new doctors will take time off from their busy schedule of social propaganda to actually see and care for the occasional patient.
1bigschwantz
5 / 5 (1) Jun 27, 2008
Dont worry, the lawyers will just sue em if they're wrong.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.