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David McCoy: The science of climate denialism

26 Mar, 14 | by BMJ

david_mccoyIn a previous posting, I argued that it is important for everyone to have some understanding of climate science—which is why Medact produced a summary and discussion of the latest UN report about the physical science of climate change. I also questioned the scientific understanding of Owen Paterson, minister for environment, food, and rural affairs, following his ill judged comments on the UN report. But why is there is so much scepticism and denial about the evidence of anthropogenic global warming? more…

David Pencheon: Climate change—knowing so much and doing so little

22 Jan, 14 | by BMJ

David PencheonAlthough I like to think I am a rational person who can consider most issues objectively, I know this is rubbish. I am biased, prejudiced, and a prisoner of my experience, although perhaps acknowledging this is better than denying it. Not easy, as the ability to deny is probably our most powerful coping mechanism, and extremely useful for people like doctors who spend much of their working lives dealing with constant uncertainty, suffering, and stress. There is only so much reality with which the human frame can cope, and many people do appear to be very skilled (maybe too skilled) at detachment, denialism, and clever ways of dealing with more than their fair share of pain, suffering, and death. Perhaps this explains why we sometimes seem so poor at understanding the effect of our behaviour and actions (or lack of them) on others. more…

Rachel Stancliffe and Mahmood Bhutta: Should doctors lead on sustainability?

1 Jul, 13 | by BMJ



Welcome to a new series of blogs on sustainable healthcare that will look at health, sustainability and the interplay between the two. The blog will share ideas from experts across the healthcare field, some of whom are speaking at a major European conference looking at Pathways to Sustainable Healthcare in September 2013.  More about the conference can be seen at

The GMC’s Good Medical Practice states that: “Good doctors make the care of their patients their first concern.” This is of course a laudable principle, and good doctors strive to ensure that patients are seen in a timely manner, that they are treated by appropriately trained staff, and that systems of clinical governance are in place to enable improvement. Yet we all know that we work within constraints, with these most commonly relating to financial or logistical constraints on service provision. However the evidence now makes it clear that those constraints should also include consideration of the wider impact of healthcare provision on the global need to care for the environment and to protect labour rights.   more…

David Pencheon: The future of sustainable practices

15 Nov, 12 | by BMJ

David PencheonWhen will this tale be possible? Towards the end of the working day, I jump on a train that takes me smoothly well in excess of 100 mph to another large town in England in less than 45 minutes (It took 90 minutes before 2009). I get picked up by a GP in an electric car. We drive to a hotel where my host drops me by the entrance whilst she plugs the car into the hotel’s free charging point. more…

Mike Knapton and Tom Pierce: Doctors should take a leading role in tackling climate change

11 Apr, 12 | by BMJ

The recent Cambridge University Leadership Programme looked at sustainable development in health services worldwide. It was an opportunity to hear the evidence and arguments which were both persuasive and alarming. The link between population growth and our reliance on a carbon-based economy, leading to rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the consequent changes in climate was compelling. This is relevant to healthcare systems, and the professionals that work within it, not only because climate change itself is having significant consequences on the health of populations, but because healthcare systems themselves have a significant carbon footprint. more…

David Pencheon: Death by consumption—again

30 Mar, 12 | by BMJ

David Pencheon

Tuberculosis used to be (and sometimes still is) the great scourge, causing death and disease on a global scale and changing the course of human history over millennium. It is often called consumption—partly because the disease seems to “consume” the body.

Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. The evidence strongly suggests that the biggest global health threat we now face is due to another sort of consumption: unfettered use and disposal of resources that leads to unmanaged climate change; something we understand much more that we care to admit, and certainly in enough detail to warrant much more action. But, as the Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland says, “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions, if all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true.” more…

Sarah Walpole: The NHS sustainability day audit is “a very good place to start”

16 Mar, 12 | by BMJ

Sarah Walpole

“The very beginning” has famously been advocated as “a very good place to start,” but when it comes to sustainability, this doesn’t seem to be such an easy mantra to follow. For one thing, it’s not altogether clear where “the very beginning” is, and for a second, we in the NHS are so busy trying to keep up with the here and now, that hunting around to find the ideal starting place seems out of the question.

Well, here is an altogether easier and more accessible approach—let’s start at the NHS sustainability day audit… NHS sustainability day is coming up on the 28 March, and there are a whole host of reasons why this is a good opportunity for anyone who works in the health service to get involved. more…

Nell Crowden: Climate week—cleaning up the sponsorship debate

16 Mar, 12 | by BMJ

Action on climate change is good for our health, good for our wealth, and good for our environment—our life-support system.

We are all complicit in the degradation on our once-reliable, stable climate. The climate science is clear. The economic arguments are clear. And the health message is clear: we can all do things that impact—for good and for ill. more…

Nell Crowden: What’s bad for the climate is bad for health

7 Feb, 12 | by BMJ Group

“Perverting the course of evidence-based policy on climate change adaptation and mitigation damages our health resilience, our economic prosperity, and our environmental stability.” (Transparency needed on donors to climate sceptic lobby, Guardian, 26.1.12)

Recently there was a freedom of information (FOI) hearing at the Information Rights Tribunal into whether to publicly reveal the funders behind Lord Lawson’s influential think tank, Global Warming Policy Foundation. Leading climate scientists, including NASA’s James Hansen, support the FoI request, as do medical leaders, including the BMJ, the Lancet, and the Climate and Health Council. Science is sceptical, and the science on climate change has been thoroughly interrogated and tested – as has the science around health and climate change (Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change): more…

Tracey Koehlmoos: Disaster preparedness and resiliency

21 Dec, 11 | by BMJ Group

Tracey KoehlmoosThis week I have had the pleasure of attending a workshop in Honolulu with the centre for excellence for disaster management and humanitarian assistance (CoE-DMHA). The CoE is interested in thinking about resiliency and support for relief and rebuilding from a multi-lateral perspective. With its partners from the Oak Ridge and Argonne National Laboratories, the CoE is polishing up its efforts to develop a system by which all players in a disaster can share and receive information. more…

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