Climate change spells ‘global health catastrophe’

By Liz Stephens

Eminent surgeons and physicians from across the world have signed a joint letter calling for the government to see climate change as a priority health issue.

The letter, a copy of which has been sent to Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, was published jointly by the BMJ and the Lancet today.

It emphasises the benefits a low-carbon economy and diet would have on health, including lower rates of cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

It also warns that a failure of world leaders to agree “radical” carbon cuts at the Copenhagen summit later this year would be disastrous for the health of the world population.

“There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these,” the letter says.

“As leaders of physicians across many countries, we call on doctors to demand that their politicians listen to the clear facts that have been identified in relation to climate change and act now to implement strategies that will benefit the health of communities worldwide.”

Dr Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ, said: “Politicians may be scared to push for radical reductions in emissions because some of the necessary changes to the way we live won’t please voters.

“Doctors are under no such constraint. On the contrary we have a responsibility as health professionals to warn people how bad things are likely to get if we don’t act now.”

Speaking about the government’s preparations for Copenhagen last week, secretary for energy and climate change, Ed Miliband, said “the most important commodity in these negotiations, is political boldness”.

“The British government is determined to do its bit and we must not fail because this is a unique moment of opportunity.

“Every minister in government will be part of this diplomatic offensive and we’re determined to succeed.”

The UN climate change conference is due to take place in Copenhagen in December.