Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis Essay

Why doctors and their organisations must help tackle climate change: an essay by Eric Chivian

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2407 (Published 02 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2407

Re: Why doctors and their organisations must help tackle climate change: an essay by Eric Chivian

The issue of climate change highlighted in Eric Chivian's essay is here to stay. It will not go away because human behaviour is very slow to change and only does so under severe duress. For example, there are no road markings until several people are killed in road accidents; drugs are not pulled off the market until people die from them; you don't stop drinking until the spouse says you're out unless you stop. Like the dermatologists say, "it has to get worse before it starts to get better".

The reason this type of mind-set occurs in these examples is because there is a powerful deterrent preventing change. These being human behaviour, alcohol, and money.

The cause of climate change according to Chivian and scientists is carbon emissions mainly due to fossil fuel use. The horse has bolted. The world economy is based on fossil fuel. The emerging economies of China and India, etc, are just catching up on the other large economies and they are not going to stop using oil. It is a roller coaster and can only get worse. It won't stop until disaster happens. The drivers are money, power, human psychology and absence of good alternatives. Even if the bank rollers of the media and the propaganda machines were to have a change of heart the rest of the emerging economies would not stop and why should they "sure ye were at it for 50 or more years and have loads of money and we are only getting off our feet...".

Overpopulation is not an issue. The present human number is 7 billion or so. The animal count is of the order of 100s of billions as reputable UN web sites show. It is what the population or a few of the population do is the problem. If several thousand fossil fuel magnates drive carbon emissions it is their behaviour that is damaging the climate. They should be stopped.

Overpopulation has never happened in the history of the world. Plagues of locusts, colonies of ants, outbreaks of ebola, whatever....they have all petered out. Why now should we have a problem with overpopulation when it hasn't happened in the thousands of centuries to date? If there is overpopulation it certainly isn't of men. It could be overpopulation of empowered selfish rich carbon emitting tycoons.

Unmet contraceptive needs, overpopulation and the like are the equivalent of the deckchairs on the Titanic as it cruises toward the iceberg, because the real causes of the climate disaster are being ignored, and spurious idealogs are confusing the issue with these false arguments.

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 April 2014
Eugene G Breen
Physician/psychiatrist
Mater Misericordiae University Hospital
62/63 Eccles St., Dublin 7. Ireland.