Letters Climate change

Politicians must heed health effects of climate change

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3672 (Published 15 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3672
  1. Victor Lim, master1,
  2. Joseph W Stubbs, president2,
  3. Nazmun Nahar, president3,
  4. Naomali Amarasena, president4,
  5. Zafar Ullah Chaudry, president5,
  6. Steven Chow Kim Weng, president6,
  7. Bongani Mayosi, president7,
  8. Zephne van der Spuy, president8,
  9. Raymond Liang, president9,
  10. Kar Neng Lai, president10,
  11. Geoffrey Metz, president11,
  12. G William N Fitzgerald, president12,
  13. Brian Williams, president13,
  14. Neil Douglas, president14,
  15. John Donohoe, president15,
  16. Somwang Darnchaivijir, president16,
  17. Patrick Coker, president17,
  18. Ian Gilmore, president18
  1. 1Academy of Medicine Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  2. 2American College of Physicians, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  3. 3Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  4. 4Ceylon College of Physicians, Colombo, Sri Lanka
  5. 5College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan, Karachi, Pakistan
  6. 6College of Physicians of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  7. 7College of Physicians of South Africa, Rondebosch, South Africa
  8. 8Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, Rondebosch, South Africa
  9. 9Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, Hong Kong, SAR China
  10. 10Hong Kong College of Physicians, Hong Kong, SAR China
  11. 11Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  12. 12Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  13. 13Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Glasgow
  14. 14Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Edinburgh
  15. 15Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
  16. 16Royal College of Physicians of Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand
  17. 17West African College of Physicians, Lagos, Nigeria
  18. 18Royal College of Physicians of London, London NW1 4LE
  1. Ian.Gilmore{at}rcplondon.ac.uk

    The report on climate change and health commissioned by University College London and the Lancet concludes: “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”1 In this report, the authors emphasise not only the immediacy and gravity of this threat but also the directness: while the poorest in the world will be the first affected, none will be spared. The escalating carbon footprint of the developed world has led to the present situation, but the rapid impact on developing countries such as the encroaching deserts in Africa is the immediate price.

    This is one reason why doctors must take a lead in speaking out. Another is that there are important co-benefits of tackling climate change for those with long term conditions in the developed world, such as those that come from more exercise with less use of cars and dietary change with reduced meat consumption. In December this year, world governments meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, to negotiate a new UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these. Should their response be weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic. Doctors are still seen as respected and independent, largely trusted by their patients and the societies in which they practise. As leaders of physicians across many countries, we call on doctors to demand that their politicians listen to the clear facts that have been identified in relation to climate change and act now to implement strategies that will benefit the health of communities worldwide.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3672


    • This letter is published simultaneously in the Lancet.

    • Competing interests: None declared.