Intended for healthcare professionals

Editor's Choice

What did you do about climate change Mum?

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 08 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:0-f
  1. Fiona Godllee, editor (fgodlee{at}

    Ignorance is bliss. Sadly, when it comes to climate change we no longer have the luxury of ignorance. We know that the world is getting hotter and that carbon emissions are almost certainly to blame. We know that global warming means rising sea levels, floods, droughts, storms, and inconceivably large numbers of displaced people. We know that these changes are likely over the next few decades and have huge implications for human health. More importantly we know that there are things we can do, individually and collectively, nationally and internationally (p 1397). Knowing this means that we must act now if we are to look our children in the eye. Doctors carry special responsibility as influential people committed to preserving health. As Anna Coote and Lynn Eaton point out (pp 1343, 1389), doctors also collectively manage vast resources, with the potential to do great harm environmentally—or great good.

    So here's a new competition. It's one you can all join in. Indeed, if Robin Stott and Mayer Hillman are right about carbon rationing (pp 1385, 1387), soon you will have no choice but to join in. It's called “How low can you go with carbon emissions?” I've just calculated my carbon footprint using Hillman's questionnaire (p 1387). It's not good: 10.5 tonnes a year just for personal use—more than double the UK average. And this doesn't include the 22 tonnes a year from the air and train travel I do for work. The only good thing is that there's room for improvement. You can see what I and other BMJ staff are doing to cut our emissions in our carbon blog on To add your own carbon stories, send a rapid response; we'll collect the best together in the journal. And there will be three prizes to be won at the end of the year: for the BMJ subscriber with the lowest personal carbon footprint (£500) and for the primary and secondary care providers internationally with the lowest carbon footprint per patient (£2000 each). More details of the competition will appear soon on

    Climate change is an evolving challenge, so the BMJ is recruiting a Carbon Council: a virtual international group whose job will be to encourage us and advise us on what we should do both as a journal (should we ask authors for a carbon footprint for every paper we publish and to say what the climatological as well as the clinical and financial implications of their work are?) and as a business (video conferencing to minimise travelling, but what about offsetting emissions by planting trees: is this just a salve to our consciences or does it really make a difference?) If you'd like to apply to join our carbon council, email editor{at} (put “Carbon Council” as the subject) by 30 June with a CV and a letter explaining how you can help us. We'll post the list of members and their unfolding advice on


    To receive Editor's choice by email each week subscribe via our website:

    View Abstract