Medics Climate Change Copenhagen sign now

Dear Mr. Gordon Brown,

This letter is an appeal to you from the medical students of Britain to take serious action on climate change at the Copenhagen summit. We are writing to you from two perspectives: as medical students and as those who will inherit the planet you leave us.

As medical students, many of us have been motivated by the potential of science to cure disease, improve peoples lives, and ease suffering. The privilege of having a medical degree is the ability it gives us to make a small difference. On an individual level, we can transform lives. However, our influence is personal. Although we are learning to prevent or cure injuries to individuals, you were voted into power in the hope that you would prevent or cure injuries to our society at large.

We believe the greatest threat of injury to Global Health today is posed by climate change.

Threats to global health have been clearly outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Increasing temperatures will affect the spread of vector borne disease. Increases in levels of the most dangerous form of malaria (Plasmodium falciparum) will occur in countries at the edge of current geographical malaria distribution. In Europe, levels of diseases such as tick-born encephalitis and Lyme disease are already increasing, and in southern areas of our continent the distribution of the sandfly vector of Leishmaniasis (a disease that kills 32,000 a year in South East Asia) is changing.

Yet more seriously, the ability of the worlds poorest to feed themselves will suffer. Global water availability will be affected and crop productivity will decrease in sub-Saharan Africa. The IPCC predicts with very high confidence that global levels of malnutrition will increase. Additionally, levels of potentially fatal food poisoning from bacteria such as Salmonella will rise in line with temperature rises. If the worlds poorest cannot cope then levels of migration will rise, and with our carbon footprint dwarfing that of the rest of the world, we will have a duty to help resolve these issues.

Sea levels are rising now. The number of extreme climactic events including heavy rainfall is going up. This has led to flooding such as occurred in New Orleans, the devastating effects of which are obvious. As temperatures creep up the number of people at risk from flooding will increase. After hurricane Katrina, water supplies were contaminated with industrial chemicals and human faecal waste. Changes in water distribution worldwide are likely to increase diarrhoeal disease. Diarrhoea is already responsible for a huge number of deaths in the developing world: over 2 million in 2004. Furthermore, altered human-rodent contact following changes in water distribution may result in re-emergence of an apocalyptic disease: the plague.

As young people who will have to deal with the problems of the next century, we want to do all we can to prevent the disastrous impact climate change is likely to have on the future health of humanity. We will soon have the ability to make a difference to the lives of the patients in front of us. We ask that your government will have the courage to take a tough stance on climate change at Copenhagen, to make a difference for the health of our nation and our world. Echoing Lord Sterns opinion in the Climate Change Committee report, we need politicians committed to fighting for the next generation, not just the next election.

References:
IPCC 2007; WHO Protecting Health from Climate Change; Health effects of climate change in the UK in 2008: an update of the Department of Health report 2001/2002; The Lancet-UCL Commission; Ian Gilmore et al, Politicians must heed health effects of climate change Lancet 2009

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Beverley HarmonBy:
TelecommunicationsIn:
Petition target:
No 10 Downing Street

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