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Leading Doctors Call For Climate Change Action To Prevent ‘Global Health Catastrophe’

On Wednesday, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Lancet simultaneously published an editorial (available here and here) and an accompanying letter (here and here) from 18 doctor association leaders to highlight the need for action at a December U.N. conference on climate change in Copenhagen, Reuters reports (Doyle, 9/16).

According to the editorial, which is “written by two of Britain’s most senior figures in the area of health and development,” measurable results in Copenhagen are “vital for our future as a species, and for our civilisation.” The authors note that “[f]ailure to agree radical reductions in emissions [spells] a global health catastrophe,” according to the Independent (McCarthy, 9/16). The authors also point out that “measures needed to combat climate change coincide with those needed to ensure a healthier population and reduce the burden on health services,” Reuters reports. They add, “A low-carbon diet (especially eating less meat) and more exercise will mean less cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Opportunity, surely, not cost” (9/16).

Agence France-Presse reports that the accompanying letter urges doctors to “take a lead in speaking out.” The letter warns that there is a “real danger that politicians will be indecisive” and that if their response is “weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic” (9/16).

Political leaders might be “scared to push for radical reductions in emissions because some of the necessary changes to the way we live won’t please voters,” said Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the BMJ, the U.K. Press Association reports. “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. The good news is that we have a positive message – that what is good for the climate is good for health,” said Godlee (9/15).

Economic Development Aid Should Not Be Diverted For Climate Change, Report Says

In related news, Oxfam released a report on Wednesday indicating that using aid to deal with the effects of climate change rather than economic development “may threaten the lives of at least 4.5 million children in the poorest nations,” Bloomberg reports (Morales, 9/16).

According to Oxfam, about $50 billion “is needed to help developing countries cope with the impacts of global warming including droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels,” the Press Association writes. Diverting that money from existing pledges could prevent 8.6 million people from accessing HIV/AIDS treatment and reverse progress related to Millennium Development Goal targets, Oxfam said. The report says that money to combat climate change should be provided “in addition” to the 0.7 percent of GDP developed nations have promised “to improve the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest countries – or efforts to tackle poverty will stall,” according to the news service (9/15).

According to Xinhua, Oxfam’s message comes ahead of President Barack Obama’s “first U.N. address on climate change,” which will take place on Sept. 22 in New York (9/16).