Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations On the Contrary

Of swords, ploughshares, and climate change

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 22 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3806
  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor, BMJ
  1. tdelamothe{at}

If the UK military wants to save the world it could start a little closer to home

The BMJ, with the UK Climate and Health Council and senior UK military figures, had planned to hold a conference on climate change this month. The editorial announcing the conference (now rescheduled for 17 October) made a convincing case for collaboration between the medical and military professions: “Climate change poses an immediate and grave threat, driving ill health and increasing the risk of conflict, such that each feeds off the other” (BMJ 2011;342:d1819, doi:10.1136/bmj.d1819).

So far, so good, though the solutions the editorialists identify—shifting to renewable energy sources, reducing energy consumption, and improving the infrastructure of cities—don’t look like happening any time soon. Meanwhile, could senior military figures begin agitating for change closer to home?

They could start with Africa, which in 2010 received overseas development aid worth $29.3bn (£18.2bn; €20.1bn), according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures (,3746,en_2649_34447_47515235_1_1_1_1,00.html). Nevertheless the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that the continent’s total military spending was $30.1bn last year. It is hard to escape the image of all of Africa’s aid …

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