Doctors and the Cancer of Climate Change. An open letter endorsing Non Violent Direct Action.
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
IPCC Special Report
Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change
Wellcome Our Planet, Our Health programme
Why civil resistance works
Doctor supports peaceful protest
Global Carbon Rising
I am a qualified Medical Practitioner
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Your feelings on the ecological and climate risks to global health. Brief please!
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