Spotlight Spotlight: Climate Change

The world on tilt

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 21 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2207
  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor, BMJ
  1. tdelamothe{at}

Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he’s been given. But up to now he hasn’t been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life’s become extinct, the climate’s ruined, and the land grows poorer and uglier every day.

In the 115 years since Anton Chekhov put these words into the mouth of the doctor in his play Uncle Vanya, the planet has heated up by 1 degree Celsius and the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen by one third. As every schoolchild knows, the two are closely linked; carbon dioxide makes up the bulk of greenhouse gases, which stop the sun’s heat radiating straight back out into space. More carbon dioxide equals a hotter planet.

As can be seen from the graphs (figs 1 and 2

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