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climate change

Nick Watts: Why the global health community is calling on the G7 to pull the plug on coal

18 May, 16 | by BMJ

nick_wattsWhen the G7 got together last year, they committed to protecting the poorest and most vulnerable people against the impacts of climate change. One year and a Paris Agreement later, those countries are convening again in Japan, where public health emergencies will be a key priority for discussion.

Health professionals from around the world have come together to suggest a key treatment to G7 leaders as they strive to lessen the burden of public health emergencies: phasing out coal-fired electricity.

Accelerating the phase-out of coal will immediately reduce emergency room visits for asthma, heart attacks, and other diseases—and is an essential treatment for the medical emergency of climate change. more…

Elizabeth Atherton and Josephine Head: How environmentally sustainable are the UK’s new dietary guidelines?

21 Mar, 16 | by BMJ

Last week saw the launch of the Eatwell Guide—the UK’s official food guide to healthy diets. Astonishingly, despite major changes in eating habits and advances in nutrition science, this is the first review of these guidelines since their original publication 20 years ago. While the update—prompted by expert recommendations on sugar—is long overdue and welcomed, it is increasingly clear that the food we eat doesn’t only affect our individual health, it also has a big impact on the health of our planet. Whilst many are celebrating a step in the right direction, we need to ask if the new Eatwell Guide goes far enough to address concerns about the environment. more…

Tony Waterston: Coming up for air at COP 21

16 Dec, 15 | by BMJ

Standing under the Eiffel Tower on the last day of the climate conference in Paris, the solidarity I felt with the thousands of demonstrators from around the world was invigorating. I went as part of the Friends of the Earth action weekend because I’m certain that climate change is the greatest threat to global health and particularly to child health. This prediction was corroborated by speakers from some of the countries likely to be most affected, including El Salvador (flooding and increased hurricanes) and Nigeria (desertification, climate refugees, and the prospect of unbearable heat waves).

There is surely enough evidence on the impact of climate change on child health to convince any climate sceptic, and the latest comes from UNICEF. more…

Sarah Walpole: Health through peace—mixing stories and science, and grabbing rays of hope

19 Nov, 15 | by BMJ

health through peace“We were deployed to attack civilians in their homes.” He stood in front of our 700 strong audience, bared the horrors of his experiences, and shared the pain of his realisation, all with brutal honesty. He described a standard operation carried out by British soldiers in Iraq: waking a family from their sleep with an explosion of the front of their house, holding them at gun point, separating men from women and children, bagging their heads and tying their wrists, smashing their belongings, stealing their documents, and leaving. He estimated that 95% of those on the receiving end of this procedure had no links to terrorism or militarism.  more…

David McCoy: Divestment is no grand gesture

30 Jul, 15 | by BMJ

david_mccoy According to Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, the Guardian’s “Keep in the Ground” campaign to promote divestment from fossil fuel companies is merely a “grand gesture” that can be made only once.

At one level, he is right. The financial impact of the Wellcome Trust selling off its shares in fossil fuel companies would be negligible. But as a social and political gesture, the impact would be huge. The Wellcome Trust a prestigious and highly respected scientific and charitable organisation. It works to improve health and serve humanity. Its voice carries weight and through divestment, it would be sending a strong signal to governments and the general public that continued investment in fossil fuel companies is simply not compatible with the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Michael Wilks: Climate change—action at a national and global level is essential

1 Jul, 15 | by BMJ

The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change was published on 23 June. A previous commission, established jointly by The Lancet and University College London, described climate change as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” While the 2015 report recommends practical steps to be taken by national and international administrations, it also brings into sharper focus two components that cannot be ignored if a sustainable global solution is to be found to a so-far intractable global problem. more…

Jocalyn Clark: The surprising links between child marriage, climate change, and health

16 Jun, 15 | by BMJ

Jocalyn_Clark1It seems obvious that child marriage—marriage before 18 years of age—would be bad for girls’ health. It risks injury and death due to early pregnancy and abuse, and usually means girls stop going to school.

But the link to climate change is less conspicuous. A new Human Rights Watch report, focused on Bangladesh, which has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world (a full 30% of females in this country are married before 15), sheds light on the role of climate change. Having never thought of adolescent health this way, I find the tripartite fascinating. more…

The BMJ Today: More on climate change

3 Oct, 14 | by BMJ

BirteEarlier this year, The BMJ’s editor in chief, Fiona Godlee, was one of 50 senior UK medical professionals to sign a letter in the Times newspaper about the health benefits of ending investment in fossil fuels, and diverting funds instead to alternative energy and more active forms of transport.

On 1 October 2014, The BMJ published an editorial, calling for the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency. The BMJ has campaigned about climate change for years, and the reactions from our readers have been interesting—indeed, as Godlee writes, “When The BMJ started publishing articles on climate change, some readers told us to stick to our knitting.” more…

Daniel Maughan: What has climate change got to do with mental health?

15 Sep, 14 | by BMJ

This blog is part of a series on sustainable healthcare, which looks at health, sustainability, and the interplay between the two. The blog is coordinated by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and shares ideas from experts across the healthcare field.

The World Health Organization and the Lancet Commission have both stated that climate change is the largest threat to human health in the 21st Century. Does this threat extend to mental health? Weather systems are likely to become more unstable as global temperatures rise, but could unstable weather have an effect on the development of mental disorders? more…

Alistair Wardrope: Healthcare organisations and fossil fuel divestment

27 Jun, 14 | by BMJ

alistair_wardropeMuch has been said about the outcomes of the BMA’s Annual Representatives’ Meeting (ARM) this week. Of the debates held and motions passed, however, perhaps only Tim Crocker-Buqué’s tobacco motion has as strong a claim to world first status as motion 370. Buried in the rather dry sounding section on “Finances of the Association,” this motion called for strong action from the medical profession to tackle the health risks posed by climate change, including a commitment to “transfer their investments from energy companies, whose primary business relies upon fossil fuels, to those providing renewable energy sources.”

On Wednesday morning, the motion passed—albeit with the above clause passing “as a reference,” meaning that it is a direction to Council rather than policy, but the spirit and intent of the motion is kept. With it, the BMA became the first health sector organisation (to my knowledge) to publicly express its intent to divest from the fossil fuel industry. That the move comes from the BMA, one of the oldest and most respected medical professionals’ organisations in the world, demonstrates the power of the divestment movement. more…

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