One of the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical journals makes an absolutely unequivocal statement on the health effects of climate change – and remarkably, proposes action:
This is an emergency. Immediate and transformative action is needed at every level: individual, local, and national; personal, political, and financial. Countries must set aside differences and work together as a global community for the common good, and in a way that is equitable and sensitive to particular challenges of the poorest countries and most vulnerable communities.
… So what can health professionals do? Firstly, we should push our own organisations (universities, hospitals, primary care providers, medical societies, drug and device companies) to divest from fossil fuel industries completely and as quickly as possible, reinvest in renewable energy sources, and move to “renewable” energy suppliers. Secondly, we should each use whatever influence we have to change the minds and behaviour of others who are in positions of influence.
Thirdly, we need to build an alliance of medical and other health professionals to speak clearly to the public, the media, governments, and intergovernmental bodies to provide a strong and unified message—that climate change is real and is the result of human activity; that it is already affecting people around the world and is the greatest current threat to human health and survival; and that there are many positive and practical things we can do systematically and at scale to avert its worst effects.
So in spite of the pooh-poohing from institutions like Harvard, BMJ calls for institutional divestment.
In any event, climate has obvious and gigantic health implications. Leadership from medical professionals — who are typically among the most respected members of any community — . would help to galvanize the public to act.
There are some signs that climate is emerging as a central and motivating issue — among progressives and Democrats, for sure, but also in the corporate world. Witness the Senate’s recent climate all-nighter (featuring our Ed Markey); or Apple CEO Tim Cook’s rebuke to climate-denialist activist shareholders; or even ExxonMobil’s acceptance of a future cost of carbon. Ignore the deniers: even they know in their heart of hearts that they’re wrong. The key is to use the levers of power that are available. May BMJ’s strong wording convince those insitutional players in the medical field to take immediate action.