Activists call for public health to take central role in UN climate change talksBMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b4611 (Published 09 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4611
All rapid responses
Efforts to highlight the public health implications of climate change
to politicians at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen are to be
applauded. However, despite increasingly dire warnings of the economic (1)
and health (2) catastrophes that unabated climate change will cause, the
vast majority of health professionals and public have not been stirred
into the necessary collective action. Prof Anthony Giddens suggests that
environmental doomsday messages leave us feeling powerless and overwhelmed
(3). Yet the health benefits of tackling climate change offer a powerful
call to action that health professionals must highlight. Policies to
reduce car use will cut CO2 emissions, road traffic accidents and reduce
respiratory and cardiovascular disease through reduced air pollution and
increased exercise. Reducing meat over-consumption will reduce energy use
from food production and likely decrease risk of cardiovascular disease
and certain cancers (4). As health professionals we must quickly come to
terms with the urgency of the situation. We need an active,
multidisciplinary health movement advocating for CO2 emissions reductions
using positive, ‘win-win’ messages that strike a chord with policy makers
and the public. To this end, we urge all health professionals to come to
The Wave (5); a huge civil society mobilization on climate change taking
place in London on the 5th of December. A coalition of health
organizations will meet in Central London, before joining the main march
to Parliament demanding a healthier, low carbon society for ourselves and
future generations. We must act now; our health depends on it.
Dr Tony Waterston (Medact), Dr Frances Mortimer (Campaign for Greener
Healthcare), Dr Robin Stott (Climate and Health Council), Jonny Currie
1. Stern N. The economics of climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2007.
2. Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, Ball S, Bell S, Bellamy R, et al.
Managing the health effects of climate change. Lancet 2009;373:1693-733
3. Giddens A. The Politics of Climate Change. London: Polity Press,
4. McMichael AJ, Powles JW, Butler C, Uauy R. Food, livestock
production, energy, climate change and health. Lancet 2007;370: 1253–63.
The authors are members of the organisations taking part in The Wave.
Competing interests: No competing interests