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GPs go forth

Climate change in the consultation room

Dr Kailash Chand

Yesterday's Clean Air Summit, hosted by Sadiq Khan and attended by other mayors of major British cities, such as Manchester’s Andy Burnham and Birmingham’s Andy Street, directed a clear message in the direction of the Government - co-operate with us to develop the largest Clean Air Zone outside London, help small businesses to switch efficiently to more eco-friendly vehicles, and avoid punishing with penalty charges. 

This is a great shared focus, and leads me to also congratulate the BMA, who will be proposing an emergency motion to declare ‘a climate emergency’ at the World Medical Association’s General Assembly meeting this week.

It goes as follows:

  • Declare a climate emergency and call the international health community to join our mobilisation
  • Commit to advocate to protect the health of citizens across the globe in relation to climate change
  • Urge national Government to rapidly work to deliver carbon neutrality by 2030, so as to minimise the life-threatening impacts of climate change on health

We know that GPs are struggling to cope with pollution-related diseases. Air pollution has a number of proven negative medical effects, including contributing to at least 40,000 early deaths in the UK from lung and heart disease and being deemed ‘as bad as smoking in increasing the risk of miscarriage’.

New UK research also links toxic air to low birth weight, which can cause lifelong damage to health.

GPs are struggling to cope with pollution-related diseases

Meanwhile, leading climate change experts warn that we’re facing the biggest environmental challenge our species has ever seen, with research commissioned by 20 governments concluding that, without action on climate change, tens of millions of people will die by 2030.

It’s generally accepted that, between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause approximately a quarter of a million additionally deaths annually, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. 

While this is worldwide, it also has a noteworthy link to healthcare in the UK. Here in England, for example, King’s College London announced just this week that 36,000 deaths each year are caused in part by air pollution

With this in mind, the medical profession plays an important role in advocating to protect the health of citizens around the world, and therefore a responsibility to demand greater action on climate change. 

As the environmental challenge of this generation, it’s imperative that we act before it’s too late.

Dr Kailash Chand OBE is a retired GP in Tameside

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Readers' comments (12)

  • No one can predict the future
    What will the world be like in 2070? Nobody knows.

    Person A says: I am an expert in "things 50 years hence" and I say you need to take action X to save our planet
    Person B says: wow, person A is a self declared expert, so I had better "act now" and do X

    Person B is an idiot

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  • When Person B holds a gun to person C's head and says - give me your money so I can 'act now' to avert this 'crisis'...
    Even if Person C says I don't believe this at all.
    Person B is downright dangerous and sinister.

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  • Thank you for your Labour Party Political Broadcast.

    Sounds like another case of stuff killing people, GP to fix.

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  • What are the bma doing getting involved in political arguments like this ? It is supposed to be standing up for doctors not taking political stands on other issues.
    If it does still insist on declaring a , 'climate emergency', It should be taking steps to get the medical profession to improve access to birth control and encouraging people not to breed. It is people having too many children that are causing the planet to run out of resources. This is the aspect that doctors could actually do the most about so if they want to say anything the should be campaigning for doctors to stop people having children.

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  • Dr Chand is right. GPs have enormous credibility with our patients. If we set an example and ride bikes and have eco friendly transport it really makes a difference .

    And for gods sake stop prescribing Metered dose inhalers each of which is equivalent to driving 180 miles!

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  • Thanks Keitflyer, for the laugh

    GPs' personal habits like eating salad and using posh words like 'prophylactic' have made huge differences to the reduce obesity and raise educational standards in our patients

    Plus, yes, salbutamol doses of 100mcg should be produced and dispensed in small air-tight hemp bags. Genius, planet saved

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  • P.S. I just saw that Kurt Cobain's iconic cardigan as seen on Nivanna Unplugged has been bought at auction for several million pounds.
    Surely RCGP was the mystery buyer?

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  • Vinci Ho

    (1) While I am all for cleaner energy to reduce carbon emission, one has to be pragmatic and realistic . Politics indeed , often is about being realistic. Doing the wrong thing at the wrong time could easily become ‘right’ thing at the right point of time in history.
    (2) The rise of Elizabeth Warren in the other side of the Atlantic leading up to the Democrats’ primaries for next year ‘s presidential election epitomises the pros and cons of the radical reforms the left wing politicians wanting to endeavour. The latest edition of The Economist got her on the front page and dedicated a few pages about her story so far . The abolition of fracking , tougher regulations on energy companies, short and medium-term to the oil prices , hence global economy etc . These are the complexities of the issue of the ultimate goal of reducing carbon emission which undoubtedly has been detrimental to our environment (as I believe) . Read this as well:
    (3) Coming back to UK , I am not sure whether our politicians have been equipped with enough knowledge about exactly how to implement greener policies to deviate from fossil fuel combustion, given the fact that we ,as a country , have been in limbo for three years due to Brexit with nothing other than economic uncertainties .

    Need , there are plenty of dilemmas in this subject of protecting and saving our environment . I just hope people should discern all the facts accurately before applying one’s moral compass and principles. And as a doctor/GP , just like Brexit ,I strongly stand by the argument that we should not immediately position ourselves into this highly politicised matter .

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  • Vinci Ho

    .....short and medium-term effects to the oil prices .....

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  • Vinci Ho

    Indeed ( not Need)

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