Citing threat to human survival, doctors divest from fossil fuels

doctors photo
CC BY 2.0 MilitaryHealth

When President Obama dinged climate change deniers in a recent speech, he used a medical analogy:

“I’m not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me that tobacco can cause lung cancer, then I’ll say, okay. Right? I mean, it’s not that hard,”

Of course, many medical doctors will also tell the president, and anyone else who will listen, that climate change is a major threat to human health and well-being too. But talk is cheap. Now Business Green reports that the British Medical Association, the representative body of UK doctors, has become the first national medical organization to commit to divesting from fossil fuels:

The motion was brought by members of the BMA's Retired Members Forum as well as several local committees and follows an editorial published in the British Medical Journal in March that called for divestment from fossil fuels because of the "scale and immediacy of the threat to human survival, health and wellbeing" posed by unmitigated climate change. Although the clause of the motion that called for divestment passed as a reference, which means the BMA must adhere to the spirit and intent but not the exact wording, health charities supporting the move said the motion is a "clear commitment" to divest.

The theme of linking climate change to immediate human health issues is not exactly new. Back in 2010, scientists predicted that climate change could kill as many as 5 million people by 2020. Now, however, it seems like there is a growing push among medical professionals to not just warn people of the dangers, but actually do something about it.

From George Washington University Hospital's massive solar power purchase to hospitals embracing green building, we've already seen significant progress in cleaning up the healthcare industry itself. Leveraging the industry's significant financial clout by taking on divestment is a logical next step.

As I argued in the case of the Stanford coal divestment, each resolution has significance well beyond its immediate financial impact. When universities divest, they send a message about where they see the future of energy going. When religious institutions divest, they make a statement about the ethics of exploiting our planet. When cities and communities divest, they send a message about shared values and collective responsibilities. And when oil producing nation's even consider divesting, they underline the considerable economic uncertainty around carbon bubbles and an economy over reliat on fossil fuels.

So when doctors divest, as they once did with tobacco, they send a clear message: Climate change is bad for us. It's time we did something about it.

Tags: Activism | Coal | Economics | Ethical | Health | Health Care | Oil

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