A statement calling for urgent action on climate change has been issued by doctors, health professionals and military personnel participating in a London conference on the health and security implications of climate change convened by the British Medical Journal.
Professor Hugh Montgomery, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at the University College London and Director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance, talking to OneClimate at The Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change conference that he helped to organise in London, 17th October 2011.
Related: A Stark Choice between climate justice and climate war where Canadian journalist Naomi Klein discusses militarism and climate change - Peoples Conference on Climate Change, Bolivia, April 2010.
The statement says that:
"Climate change leads to more frequent and extreme weather events and to conditions that favour the spread of infectious diseases. Rising sea levels, floods and droughts cause loss of habitat, water and food shortages, and threats to livelihood. These trigger conflict within and between countries. Humanitarian crises will further burden military resources through the need for rescue missions and aid. Mass migration will also increase, triggered by both environmental stress and conflict, thus leading to serious further security issues. It will often not be possible to adapt meaningfully to these changes, and the economic cost will be enormous. As in medicine, prevention is the best solution."
The conference - The Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change - How to secure our future wellbeing - was held at BMA (British Medical Association) House on Monday October 17th. In an unlikely alliance military and health officials came together to discuss the health and security implications of climate change. The health implications of climate change have been discussed for some time. Less well known is that climate change has been taken seriously by military personnel - those working to prevent and manage conflicts around the world: that climate change is also the greatest future threat to security.
The conference was born out of frustration at the slow progress in tackling the causes of climate change at national and international levels. It arose from discussions and an an editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on climate change, ill health and conflict written by senior physicians and by military personnel at the UK Ministry of Defence. From these beginnings, a loose partnership of concerned organisations emerged, with a common aim of highlighting the urgent need for action.
The statement issued at the end of conference included Signatories such as the editors-in-chief of the British Medical Journal and Lancet, the chairman of the British Medical Association, the president of the Norwegian Medical Association, and the executive director of Greenpeace International. The statement is included in full below.
Watch video interviews with a few of the attendees interviewed by One Climate. More videos from One Climate TV on Youtube
Professor Timothy Lang, Professor of Food Policy, at The City University talking to OneClimate at the conference.
Isabella Platon, Head of Communications, International Diabetes Federation, talked to OneClimate at The Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change conference, London, 17th October 2011.
Alejandro Litovsky - Director of Earth Security Initiative - talking to OneClimate at The Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change. He talks about food speculation and food security as a result of climate change.
Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, World Health Organisation (WHO), Senior Scientist, Environmental Risks to Human Health, talking to OneClimate on the global health impact of climate change.
Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis, Assistant Chief of Staff (Health) and Chief Naval Medical Officer talking to OneClimate on the link between Climate Change, national security and health.
Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti is a senior British Royal Navy officer who is currently the United Kingdom's Climate and Energy Security Envoy. He talked to OneClimate at The Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change Conference taking place in London.
Statement calling for urgent action on climate change
The following statement was issued at a conference on the health and security implications of climate change in London on 17th October 2011:-
Climate change poses an immediate, growing and grave threat to the health and security of people in both developed and developing countries around the globe.
Climate change leads to more frequent and extreme weather events and to conditions that favour the spread of infectious diseases. Rising sea levels, floods and droughts cause loss of habitat, water and food shortages, and threats to livelihood. These trigger conflict within and between countries. Humanitarian crises will further burden military resources through the need for rescue missions and aid. Mass migration will also increase, triggered by both environmental stress and conflict, thus leading to serious further security issues. It will often not be possible to adapt meaningfully to these changes, and the economic cost will be enormous. As in medicine, prevention is the best solution.
Action to tackle climate change not only reduces the risks to our environment and global stability but also offers significant health co-benefits.[i] Changes in power generation improve air quality. Modest life style changes – such as increasing physical activity through walking and cycling - will cut rates of heart disease and stroke, obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, dementia and depressive illness. Climate change mitigation policies would thus significantly cut rates of preventable death and disability for hundreds of millions of people around the world.
The health co-benefits of lower carbon use save money: reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) would save over €80 billion a year in healthcare costs and through increased productivity of a healthier workforce[ii].
We therefore call upon governments around the world to prioritise efforts to address the causes and impacts of climate change. Specifically we urge:
- The European Union to unconditionally agree a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions domestically by 30% by 2020, and to prepare further targets towards 2050 which would incentivise the decarbonisation of the economy.
- Developed countries to adopt more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, to increase their support for low carbon development and to invest in further research into the impact of climate change on health and security.
- Developing countries to actively identify the key ways in which climate change threatens health and democratic governance, as well as undertaking mitigation and adaptation activities, including through supported and unsupported NAMAs.
- All governments to enact legislative and regulatory change to stop the building of new unabated coal-fired power stations and phase out the continuing operation of existing plants prioritising lignite generation as most harmful to health.
- All parties at the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, to strive to adopt an ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction agreement consistent with the target of restricting the global temperature rise to 2°C as agreed in Copenhagen and Cancun, and in line with the pending UNFCCC review towards a 1.5°C limit above preindustrial levels. A mechanism ensuring that all people can share equitably the benefits of a safe atmosphere without penalising those with the least historical responsibility for climate change must be established.
- All governments to incorporate the UN Security Council Presidential statement from 20 July 2011 on the potential consequences of climate change on security into their short and long term security planning[iii].
- All governments to strive to adopt climate change mitigation targets and policies that are more ambitious than their international commitments.
- i Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: overview and implications for policy makers. Haines A, McMichael AJ, Smith KR, Roberts I, Woodcock J, Markandya A, Armstrong BG, Campbell-Lendrum D, Dangour AD, Davies M, Bruce N, Tonne C, Barrett M, Wilkinson P. Lancet 2009; 374: 2104-14
- ii "Acting Now for better health, A 30% reduction target for EU climate policy", HEAL and HCWHE, Brussels, September 2010
- iii Security Council Presidential Statement, Jul 20, 2011
Visit climatechange.bmj.com/statement to view statement signatories.
Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.