Views & Reviews

Why should doctors be interested in climate change?

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 26 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1506
  1. Mike Gill, visiting professor public health
  1. 1Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH
  1. mgilm1{at}

Smoking and Health was published in 1962,1 but 45 years passed before smoking was banned in enclosed public places in England. We have a small fraction of that time to cap carbon emissions globally to avoid serious risk of irreversible climate change.2 Smoking cessation has long been a recognised, legitimate, clinical aim—yet personal carbon footprint reduction is not. Why not?

Health professionals were powerful catalysts to society changing its view about smoking. Smoking is no longer seen as a normal lifestyle choice, but an addiction that has harmful effects not just for the individual but for others. Most of us do not yet think of our high carbon lifestyle as an addiction that is more destructive than tobacco, and irreversibly so.

We have not yet developed the professional attitudes, language, or conceptual framework needed to make it easy and legitimate to tackle this addiction in the clinical setting. Just as doctors smoked in front of patients, many of us still drive to work in large cars. But there are …

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