Over 1,100 doctors have signed a letter urging governments to act on climate change. They compare the “woefully inadequate” government response to the environmental crisis to a sick patient ignoring obvious symptoms.
The signatories of the letter, which include 40 professors and several eminent public health figures in the UK, call on governments and the media to face the facts about the climate crisis and urge politicians to take swift, decisive action.
The doctors back three demands, similar to those already put forward by Extinction Rebellion. They demand that all governments tell the truth about the climate crisis, that carbon neutrality must be introduced within the IPCC timeframe and that in terms of climate policy, governments are led by citizens’ assemblies “to enable climate and ecological justice.”
“We are united by our distress at the world’s minimal response to looming environmental disaster, ignoring the early signs of a malignant process,” the doctors write.
“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,” they continue.
The doctors make clear that they back non-violent direct action, such as the school strike movement, started by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, and the Extinction Rebellion protests, which paralysed much of central London in April.
They said that if governments continue to ignore warnings from scientists and “abrogate their responsibility” then “nonviolent direct action becomes the reasonable choice for responsible individuals.”
The letter was organised by Bing Jones, a retired haematologist from Sheffield. Jones told the Guardian that he was “no expert in organising this sort of thing, but within a few weeks we had over 1,000 doctors signed up.”
“We have already lost most of our Arctic ice, most of our wild animals, and much of our productive land. Our trajectory is towards a catastrophic 3C of warming or more. To limit the inevitable damage, we must act now,” he said.
Environmental Breakdown Causing Health Crisis
Jones said that the current environmental crisis was quickly also becoming a health crisis.
“There is a growing awareness that this environmental crisis is also a health crisis,” he said. “Doctors are scientifically literate, so they understand the facts of this emergency and because they are looking after people every day, they are inherently caring so they really get the likely impact. Politeness no longer makes sense and inaction is now negligent. Children are rising up to protect their future. We must now take direct action with them,” he said.
While Dr. David Pencheon, Honorary Professor of Health and Sustainable Development at the University of Exeter, told Extinction Rebellion that environmental breakdown was fast becoming one of the biggest threats to global health.
“Climate and environmental breakdown with plummeting levels of biodiversity are the biggest health threats we face. All that makes life worth living is at severe risk. The solutions need to be bold and quick – they will bring both immediate and long-term benefits to all living systems including human beings,” he said.
The letter follows a separate letter from the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, which represents 650,000 health care professionals and major health bodies calling for the government to adopt a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Theresa May the outgoing British Prime Minister introduced a bill in parliament earlier in June to make this target legally binding to any future UK governments, but despite all the rhetoric no one in government has yet exactly how the UK will achieve this extremely ambitious target.