Monday, 6 June 2011

Time for physicians to step up campaign on climate change

Canberra Times
Tuesday 24/5/2011 Page: 10

Tony McMichael ("Folly to ignore climate change dangers on health", May 20, p17) is absolutely right in criticising the Royal Australasian College of Physicians for their myopic failure to support a carbon tax. The college is a champion of evidence based medicine in the treatment of individual patients. It also favours increased cigarette pricing for the prevention of tobacco related diseases.

Yet the evidence for human induced climate disruption through increased greenhouse gas emissions from our prodigious combustion of fossil fuels is no less compelling than the links between smoking and disease. Potential climate effects both globally and in Australia are far more widespread and dangerous than tobacco toxicity. The tremendous political and financial clout of the fossil fuel industry promotes misinformation about scientifically well established facts on the impact of CO₂, pollution on the environment, including loss of biodiversity and the health of humans.

The good state of human health and life expectancy, at least in industrialised countries, is predominantly due to the infrastructure of public health measures introduced in the 19th century and immunisation procedures during the 20th century. It is regrettable that the RACP, supposedly an independent professional organisation, is failing to provide leadership on the mitigation of the greatest public health hazard facing Australia and the world in the 21st century, namely anthropogenic global warming.

Bryan Furnass, Hughes