Doctors and the Cancer of Climate Change. An endorsement of Protest.
We the undersigned are qualified medical doctors. We are united by our distress at the world’s minimal response to looming environmental disaster, ignoring the early signs of a malignant process. We sympathise with current widespread protest, notably by children who will be the most affected. Peaceful protest can change society. We urge government and media to respond immediately and proportionately.
As scientists we hear the warnings of worldwide bodies including the IPCC, NASA , WWF and WHO becoming increasingly urgent, emotive and united. As caring professionals we cannot countenance current policies which push the world’s most vulnerable now, and all our children in the future, towards progressive environmental catastrophe. It is unethical to fail to adequately inform the public as carbon emissions continue to rise, societies and habitats are destroyed and the risk of irreversible damage increases.
We are particularly alarmed by the inevitable effects of rising temperatures on health: the Lancet’s “biggest global health threat of the 21st century”. We observe escalating extreme weather events, spread of infection, loss of productive land and massive flooding of low-lying areas. We heed predictions of societal collapse and consequent mass migration, both worldwide and within countries. Such societal collapse risks damage to physical and mental health on an unprecedented scale.
We acknowledge the challenge of transforming consumerist, fossil-fuelled economies into those that enable environmentally and socially sustainable societies. But we celebrate the opportunities such changes will bring, creating a kinder, more equitable and more sustainable world. There is hope. Tackling climate change “could be the greatest global opportunity of the 21st century”- the Lancet again. Urgent radical action will mitigate the inevitable environmental damage. But delay massively increases the cost of mitigation and risks irreversible progression of this global pathology.
Present policies and responses are woefully inadequate. The IPCC warns that we have only 11 years to halve global emissions (and then reach net zero by 2050) to meet their 1.5C target, yet last year our global emissions rose yet again. It will be a massive task to avoid catastrophic warming and we need radical action now. Our unchecked consumption, dependence on fossil fuels and decimation of ecosystems continue. The diagnosis is clear and the treatment urgent. Yet politicians prevaricate and global emissions still rise. What chance do we have to meet the IPCC target if we delay?
Governments abrogate their responsibility when they pursue grossly inadequate policies that risk environmental collapse. Non Violent Direct Action then becomes the reasonable choice for responsible individuals. History, evidence and recent events demonstrate the effectiveness of persistent, peaceful protest. The method enables the media in publicising this complex but vital message.
We therefore support the following key demands which parallel those made by the Extinction Rebellion movement:
- that governments and media are honest about the challenges and urgency of tackling ecological disaster
- that governments effect carbon neutrality within the IPCC timeframe
- that governments establish and are led by Citizens Assemblies to enable climate and ecological justice
If you wish to add your signature to the letter above please complete this form https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfeUW3hRjO2QZokEOSSxTotS5uuDubjiNJuXVDtRb8EC77lZA/viewform.
Further references and quotes
IPCC Special Report https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
WWF https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/10-myths-about-climate-changeLancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change
Youth Strike https://www.schoolstrike4climate.com/
Wellcome Foundation Our Planet, Our Health programme
Extinction Rebellion https://rebellion.earth/
Citizens Assembly https://www.sortitionfoundation.org/Why civil resistance worksDoctor supports peaceful protestGlobal Carbon Rising
“The findings are clear and the stakes could not be higher. We cannot delay action on climate change. We cannot sleepwalk through this health emergency any longer.” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general
“We are now so numerous, so powerful, so all pervasive, the mechanisms we have for destruction are so wholesale and so frightening that we can exterminate whole ecosystems without even noticing it”. Sir David Attenborough
“It is clear that climate change is directly impacting our health. All sectors must prioritise action on climate change if we are to significantly reduce the potentially devastating impact on our planet and our health, affecting generations to come.” Howard Frumkin, Wellcome Trust Our Planet, Our Health programme
“In 2009, the UCL Lancet Commission on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change called climate change the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. 6 years on, a new multidisciplinary, international Commission reaches the same conclusion, whilst adding that tackling climate change could be the greatest global opportunity of the 21st century.” http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1479102/1/Colbourn_final%20commission%20-%20word.pdf
“We sit in a cocoon of comfort whilst destroying our environment. Inaction risks a world of horrors for our children. It’s physics and it’s happening now. Every year emissions rise but we avert our eyes and postpone the radical changes required. Climate change is already a disaster for the equatorial poor. We have already lost most of our Arctic ice, most of our wild animals, and much of our productive land. Our trajectory is towards a catastrophic 3 degrees of warming or more. To limit the inevitable damage, we must act now. Our lifestyle feeds a man-made cancer. The diagnosis is clear but government and media are paralysed by the prospect of the therapy prescribed. We need radical surgery to survive. Politeness no longer makes sense and inaction is now negligent.Children are rising up to protect their future. We must now take Direct Action with them.” Dr Bing Jones
Image credit: Sarah Creswell