Climate change: the challenge for healthcare professionalsBMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f6060 (Published 09 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6060
- Anthony Costello, director,
- Hugh Montgomery, professor of intensive care,
- Nick Watts, research fellow
- 1Institute for Global Health, University College London WC1N 1EH, UK
The key conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are profoundly worrying, not only for our environment but also for public health.1 Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and, since the 1950s, many of the observed changes have been unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, the sea level has risen, and concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased relentlessly.
Despite the sceptic led publicity about the “pause” in surface temperature (using 1998, the warmest year on record, as an arbitrary baseline), each of the past three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.2 (See appendix on bmj.com for the panel’s detailed predictions.)
So why does global warming pose a problem to health? An increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, worsening air quality, and changing patterns of vectorborne diseases will all have serious implications for global health. Extreme weather events (heatwaves, flooding, and droughts) will affect habitation and agricultural productivity, as will the rise in sea level. Mass …