Ebola isn’t the only public health emergency, British Medical Journal tells WHO
Deaths from Ebola ‘will pale into insignificance’ compared to those from climate change, editorial says
By Arielle Duhaime-Ross
Oct 1 2014
The British Medical Journal called on the World Health Organization today to declare a public health emergency. Not because of any specific disease, but because climate change will cause an additional 250 000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, by the WHO’s own estimate.
“WHO has shown important leadership on climate change but has stopped short of declaring a global public health emergency,” writes BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee, in an editorial. But the evidence that climate change poses a “threat to human health and survival” is strong, she writes, and it’s time to act.
Dwindling fresh water supplies, increased soil erosion, heat stress, malnutrition, malaria and extreme weather will have catastrophic effects on human health, if humanity doesn’t act fast. The BMJ therefore hopes to change attitudes within the healthcare system, which is itself “a major emitter of greenhouse gases,” Godlee writes, due to the amount of waste it produces and the energy it consumes.
To get the point across, the journal published a climate change guide in early September that addressed itself to doctors, but did not contain information about medicine or healthcare. Instead, the guide answered questions such as “Is global warming unequivocally the result of human activity?” (answer: for the most part, yes), and “What will future climate change be like?” (answer: further and more drastic changes are expected). The guide also called on health professionals to explain climate change to their patients in terms of its health consequences.
It’s “pure climate science,” Godlee says, “because if we doctors are to become effective advocates against climate change, a better understanding of the science will help us.”