Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Are international medical conferences an outdated luxury the planet can’t afford? Yes

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 26 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1466
  1. Malcolm Green, professor emeritus respiratory medicine, Imperial College
  1. 1London SW8 2EF
  1. malcolm{at}

Every year thousands of doctors and scientists fly to meetings at distant locations. Malcolm Green argues that this is no longer justifiable or necessary, but James Drife (doi: 10.1136/bmj.a351)believes face to face contact is hard to replace

Climate change is accelerating, and our propensity for releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is contributing massively. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to minimise our contribution to the acceleration, putting off the day when the environment becomes terminally unstable for human existence.1

For each of us to reduce our carbon footprint from 8 tonnes a year in the United Kingdom to the 2 tonnes that is our sustainable share is a task that is hard to conceive. But a journey of a thousand miles starts with but a single step, and doctors and scientists should be asking themselves how they can act.

Low energy light bulbs, improving the insulation of our homes, and driving less will contribute. But if we stop going to international conferences we can make a significant difference and be seen to be giving a lead. By finding new ways of communicating with our …

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