Apr 1st

What do tomorrow's doctors need to know about climate and ecosystems??

By Sarah Walpole

This is your opportunity to shape the training of tomorrow's doctors! The national consultation on priority sustainability learning outcomes for medical undergraduates is open for another 4 days, until 15th April, and it only takes about 30-40mins to read the suggested learning outcomes and respond.

In the Kings Fund and NHS SDU report of 2012 on Sustainable Health and Social Care, research priorities are outlined. Under the headings of 'Innovation', 'Behaviours, attitudes and cultures' and 'System governance and policies' the report highlights the need to rethink the way care is delivered, engage service users and staff at all levels and develop metrics to measure our success and inform policy. (See table 1, and the whole report makes very good reading if you've not seen it.. http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/files/kf/field/field_publication_file/sustainable-health-social-care-appleby-naylor-mar2012.pdf)

Mar 31st

6 aspects of denial - and unsolicited inbox clutter from 'skeptics'

By Climate and Health Council
Fascinating piece on the six aspects of (climate) denial at http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/six-aspects-of-denial/ by Mike Marriott, who's clearly also been receiving unwanted emails from a certain 'Pete Ridley' (see this piece too).  

But who is this person?  He generally copies in various MPs to his emails and writes his own blog, but it's very unclear who he is.  He loves to deride organisations as well-regarded as Cambridge, NASA and the Wellcome Trust - see below - in spite of having no credentials related to climate science himself - rather like Anthony Watts, coordinator of the 'Watts Up With That' skeptic blog who calls himself a meteorologist but won't state whether he graduated from his degree in.  And he thinks solar companies going bankrupt is a good reason to celebrate, even though the industry as a whole is doing incredibly well.  Bizarre.
Mar 28th

Fossil Fuel Subsidy Report

By Hugh Montgomery

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) are urging governments to phase-out expensive fossil fuel subsidies worth nearly $2 trillion each year to free resources for public spending in areas like education and health care. Almost 9% of all annual country budgets are spent supporting oil, natural gas, and coal industries through direct subsidies, consumer rebates and avoided taxes on pollution, according to an IMF report released yesterday. WWF say that continued maintenance of fossil fuel subsidies is a global scandal and governments should work to transform these subsidies into financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The IMF provide 22 global case studies of subsidy reforms over the past two decades, to help governments fade out fossil fuel subsidies in the ‘right way’. They provide a plan for dirty subsidy reform which emphasises transparency, committed phase-out planning and support for people vulnerable to energy price rises. Speaking in Washington D.C the IMF’s first deputy managing director David Lipton said that now is the time to embrace an end to government support for fossil fuels, and to put a price on carbon emissions. Removing these subsidies would be a major step towards reducing the world’s carbon footprint at a time when scientists suggest the impacts of climate change are accelerating.


"To me, the bottom line is that energy subsidization is a major global problem, but it is a problem that can be solved." - David Lipton, the IMF's first deputy managing director

Take a look at:
Interactive map of global energy subsidies

World fossil fuel consumption subsidies (International Energy Agency)
 Energy subsidies by region (International Monetary Fund)
Breakdown of energy subsidies (International Monetary Fund]
 Fossil fuel subsidies report card (Natural Resources Defense Counsel)
Mar 27th

The chief scientific advisor spurs us on

By robin stott
We should brace ourselves for more extreme weather over the next 25 years, warned the UK’s chief scientific advisor yesterday, in response to comments about the unseasonable snow storms blanketing swathes of Northern Europe. Prof Sir John Beddington warned that greenhouse gases pumped into our atmosphere are affecting the weather and called for ‘urgent’ action to tackle climate change. Some climate scientists are voicing concern that the warming of the Arctic, resulting in melting sea ice, is responsible for increasingly extreme and variable weather patterns – like the current freeze – at high latitudes. To emphasise the urgency of the mounting regional problem the World Meteorological Organisation said yesterday that ‘major changes will continue to occur in the Arctic’ on the same day that scientists published new research identifying accelerated warming in the ocean depths, which could have major impacts in the years to come.
Indeed unseasonable winter weather has swept across Europe in recent weeks causing havoc in the North of the continent. Transport systems have been impaired with roads blocked, trains cancelled and many flights delayed from major international airports. Countries worst affected include France, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Ukraine, and the UK. Temperatures in Berlin reached a record low of -15oC, and a state of emergency has been declared in Kiev, Ukraine, following half a metre of snowfall within 24-hours. In France, around 80,000 homes were left without power, and hundreds of motorists are reported to have spent the night in their cars, as traffic was brought to a standstill. The impact upon livestock is also a cause for concern, with thousands of animals feared dead in the UK alone.

A growing body of scientists is linking this unusual weather to the loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, which reached historic lows last autumn. Researchers, believe this ice loss adds heat to the ocean and atmosphere, which shifts the position of the jet stream – the high-altitude river of air that steers storm systems and governs most weather in the northern hemisphere – allowing cold air from the Arctic to plunge further south. While it is not yet possible to attribute an individual weather event to climate change, scientists increasingly conclude that many events would not have occurred, or would have occurred in a different way, without its influence. The British government’s outgoing chief scientific advisor has used his final days in the position to warn that man-made climate change will result in more droughts, floods, sea-surges and storms in the next 25 years and to call for “urgency” in tackling the problem.  He said that “the evidence that climate change is happening is completely unequivocal.”

This warning came on the same day that the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) released a statement highlighting the strong scientific consensus that global climate is changing rapidly and that human activity is contributing significantly. While the rate of warming varies from year to year due to natural variability the statement highlights the strong trend in human-induced warming. The global average temperature has risen an estimated 0.6°C (1.1°F) over the course of the 20th century and continues to climb. 2001-2010 was the warmest decade since satellite records began, 2010 was, globally, the warmest year, and no year since 1985 has recorded a below average mean temperature. Claims from climate change deniers that global warming stopped 16 years ago because, they erroneously claim, “there has been no discernible rise in yearly average of surface global temperatures” are misleading.

About 90% of overall global warming goes into heating the oceans. Global ocean temperatures rose by 0.10°C from the surface to a depth of 700m between 1961 and 2003 and a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that while the warming of the shallower oceans has slowed since 2003, far more heat has accumulated in the deeper oceans – below 700 meters – during this period. The study concluded that global warming has accelerated over the past 15 years, most of this taking place in the deep ocean. The WMO statement also relates changes in the oceans to changes in the Arctic. The summer of 2012 saw a record low Northern Hemisphere snow extent in June and a record low sea-ice extent in September at 3.41 million square kilometers – 18% less than the previous record low. As warming penetrates deeper into the oceans and sea ice continues to melt, sea levels will continue to rise long after atmospheric temperatures have levelled off. The WMO also highlight how recent trends in extreme weather events are consistent with the expected impacts of climate change, with human influences having likely increased temperatures of the most extreme hot nights, cold nights and cold days, increased the risk of heatwaves and contributed to significant trends in the number of heavy precipitation events in some regions.

Mar 21st

Visualising Climate Change - Graphical Innovations

By Nick Watts

Analyst Andy Robinson releases the latest in a series of innovative graphical representations of the effects of climate change.

The spiral plot demonstrate the loss of Arctic sea ice volume across all seasons from 1979 to 2013.

He also provides an illustration of the loss of Actic sea ice volume, by representing the 1979 and 2012 volumes as ice cubes on a 10km map of New York

For more of the same, see www.haveland.com

Mar 20th

We have a facebook page!

By Climate and Health Council
It's at https://www.facebook.com/ClimateHealthCouncil - please click like and help us spread the word to other facebook users interested in climate and health!

You can also post on there and we're working on connecting it up to our site directly.
Mar 20th

More reasons for active transport

By Hugh Montgomery

Lack of physical activity could cause as many as 36,815 premature deaths in England each year, according to statistics released today by the South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) and charity Sustrans.

The statistics have been produced to help local authorities estimate how much they could reduce death and illness by promoting physical activity.

They show that current levels of physical activity among people aged 40-79 are low across England and that major health gains could be made if they increased.

It has been estimated that if 100% of the population aged 40-79, did recommended levels of physical activity, each year there would be:

  • 12,061 fewer emergency hospital admissions for coronary heart disease
  • 6,735 fewer cases of breast cancer
  • 4,719 fewer cases of colorectal cancer
  • 294,730 fewer people living with type 2 diabetes

The Government currently recommends that adults undertake two and a half hours of moderate activity per week.

A study published by the Lancet in March 2013 found physical inactivity to be one of the top risk factors for death and disability in the UK, alongside smoking, hypertension, obesity and alcohol.

Sustrans Chief Executive Malcolm Shepherd said: "Until now inactivity has been a hidden killer, with few people realising how dangerous an inactive lifestyle can be.

"Health experts agree that walking and cycling are the easiest ways for people to get the exercise they need, but too many people don't feel safe on our roads.

"We can no longer ignore the problem – local authorities must take immediate action to improve the health of their communities by making walking and cycling the safest, easiest and most enjoyable ways to travel."

Professor Julia Verne, Director of the South West Public Health Observatory, said:

"While we realise there are some people who cannot engage fully in physical activity, the tool is useful in highlighting the scale of the impact of physical activity on health. Small increases in activity, even for those who can't be fully active would still deliver big health benefits.

"Local authorities can use the tool to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity and to think of ways to get people active in their area.

"There are many ways to do this. While improving sporting facilities is important, the key for most people is to build physical activity into their daily lives, rather than thinking of it as something extra to fit in to already hectic lifestyles. One way to do this is to leave cars at home, walk and cycle more often to school, work and for leisure."

Mar 19th

John Kerry on Climate Change

By Hugh Montgomery
"So climate change is coming back in a sense as a serious international issue because people are experiencing it firsthand. The science is screaming at us, literally, demanding that people in positions of public responsibility at least exercise the so-called “precautionary principle” to balance the equities and not knowing completely the outcomes at least understand what is happening and take steps to prevent potential disaster. I’ve often said to people, “What is the worst that could happen to you if you make a decision to put good energy policy in place and respond to what the science and the facts are telling us?” Well, the worst that can happen to you if you would employ a lot of people in alternative and renewable and clean energy; you would have less hospitalizations, cleaner air, more children with less asthma; and you would create an enormous number of jobs by moving to those new energy possibilities and policies and infrastructure. That’s the worst that can happen to you.

What if the other people are wrong and we are right; what’s the worst that can happen? The destruction of the ecosystem as we live with it today. So that’s really what’s on the line, and I’m here to tell you that, proudly, President Obama has put this agenda back on the front burner where it belongs, that he has in his Inauguration Address and in his State of the Union Address and in the policies he’s working on now said we are going to try to exercise leadership because of its imperatives."
Mar 17th

The Simon-Ehrlich wager - and the second bet Julian Simon wouldn't accept

By Climate and Health Council

Why do people writing in mainstream papers still give credence to Julian Simon (Senior Fellow of the notorious, industry-funded Cato Institute)'s bet with Paul Ehrlich on the price of metals in 1980?  And why do they always neglect to mention the fact that he refused to take a subsequent wager on 15 - far more relevant indices - when challenged to by Ehrlich & Schneider, both Stanford scientists.

For the full story, have a read of this piece, originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle and taken from http://www.webcitation.org/5XulOxykS:

"There is now a campaign of deceptive books and articles designed to persuade people that all is well on the environmental front. The basic message of this campaign is that some favorable trends show green concerns to be "doomsaying." Our basic message is that indirect trends such as those listed below are more relevant to human welfare than direct ones such as the prices of metals.

Julian Simon has been a leader in this campaign. He is best known for his belief that resources are infinite (he wrote in 1980 that the theoretical limit to the amount of copper that might be available to human beings was "the total weight of the universe"!) and that population can and should grow indefinitely. He's still at it ("Earth's Doomsayers are Wrong," Chronicle, May 12), this time citing a 1986 report prepared by social scientists for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that was subsequently protested by a substantial number of Academy scientists. Somehow he missed the 1994 statement from the NAS and 57 other national academies of science worldwide that contradicted his position.

He also ignored the 1993 "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity," signed by some 1700 leading scientists, including over half of all living Nobel Laureates in science, which reads in part: "A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated....A new ethic is required—a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth. We must recongize the earth's limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility....The scientists issuing this warning hope that our message will reach and affect people everywhere. We need the help of many."

It is impossible to say exactly how direct measures of human well-being will be impacted by the general deterioration of Earth's life-support systems. We know, however, that deterioration makes society increasingly vulnerable to severe negative impacts.

One of us (PRE) once made the mistake of being goaded into making a bet with Simon on a matter of marginal environmental importance (prices of metals). Simon says he still wants to make bets. We are thus now challenging Simon to bet on "trends" of much greater significance to long-term human material welfare.

  1. We wager $1000 per trend that each of the following 15 continental and global scale indicators will change in the direction indicated ("get worse") over the next decade:
  2. The three years 2002-2004 will on average be warmer than 1992-1994 (rapid climatic change associated with global warming could pose a major threat of increasing droughts and floods).
  3. There will be more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2004 than in 1994 (carbon dioxide is the most important gas driving global warming).
  4. There will be more nitrous oxide in the atmosphere in 2004 than in 1994 (nitrous oxide is another greenhouse gas that is increasing due to human disruption of the nitrogen cycle).
  5. The concentration of tropospheric ozone globally will be greater in 2004 than in 1994 (tropospheric ozone has important deleterious effects on human health and crop production)
  6. Emissions of sulfur dioxide in Asia will be signficantly greater in 2004 than in 1994 (sulfur dioxide becomes sulphuric acid in the atmosphere, the principal component of acid rain, and it is associated with direct damage to human health).
  7. There will be less fertile cropland per person in 2004 than in 1994 (as the population grows, some of Earth's best farmland is being paved over).
  8. There will be less agricultural soil per person in 2004 than in 1994 (about a quarter of the world's topsoil has been lost since World War II, and erosion virtually everywhere far exceeds rates of soil replacement).
  9. There will be on average less rice and wheat grown per person in 2002-2004 than in 1992-1994 (rice and wheat are the two most important crops consumed by people).
  10. In developing nations there will be less firewood available per person in 2004 than in 1994 (more than a billion people today depend on fuelwood to meet their energy needs).
  11. The remaining area of tropical moist forests will be significantly smaller in 2004 than in 1994 (those forests are the repositories of some of humanity's most precious living resources, including the basis for many modern pharmaceuticals worldwide).
  12. The oceanic fisheries harvest per person will continue its downward trend and thus in 2004 will be smaller than in 1994 (overfishing, ocean pollution, and coastal wetlands destruction will continue to take their toll).
  13. There will be fewer plant and animal species still extant in 2004 than in 1994 (continuing habitat destruction is wiping out organisms that are the working parts of humanity's life-support systems).
  14. More people will die of AIDS in 2004 than did in 1994 (as the disease takes off in Asia).
  15. Between 1994 and 2004, sperm counts of human males will continue to decline and reproductive disorders to increase (over the last 50 years there has been a roughly 40 percent decline in the count worldwide. We bet this trend will continue due to the widespread use of hormone-disrupting synthetic organic chemical compounds).
  16. The gap in wealth between the richest 10 percent of humanity and the poorest 10 percent will be greater in 2004 than in 1994.

We "doomsayers," of course, are not arguing that there are only unfavorable human or environmental trends, rather that too many of the most important are very unfavorable and thus demand prompt attention. Virtually all long-term trends have short-term fluctuations, thus we challenge Simon on 15 trends to avoid the result of a statistical fluke deciding this bet. To determine the direction of the trends, we will accept the decision of a panel of scientists chosen by the President of the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. Referees will be necessary, since terms like "significantly" (e.g., 5 and 10 above) and estimates of such things as agricultural soils involve questions of judgment. But there is an empirical basis on which competent scientists can make reasonable judgments.

The bet is binding on our heirs, and our winnings will go to non-profit organizations dedicated to preserving environmental quality and human well-being. Since humanity is gambling with its life-support systems, we hope to lose all parts of the bet.

In fact, we will be doing everything in our power to make that happen. Sadly, the complacency and misinformation you are spreading, Mr. Simon, increases the chances we will win the bet—while all of humanity loses. We hope this wager will cause you to reconsider the risks you so blythly suggest the American public undertake by promoting the fantasy of benign indefinite growth.

Mar 17th

New draft guidelines for key stages 1 to 3 avoid mention of climate change

By Climate and Health Council
Should it be up to individual teachers whether climate change gets a mention in schools before the age of 14?  That's what current government reforms will mean if they go ahead, as reported in this article on the Guardian online:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/17/climate-change-cut-national-curriculum.  Another sign of denialism within the current governement?  Sir David King - the former chief scientific advisor - thinks so, saying, "what you seem to have is a major political interference with the geography syllabus".

According to this blog, a DfE advisor 'has previously said that lessons should stick to core scientific principles and not include global warming'.   Scientific principles are precisely what learning about climate change is about -understanding and interpreting evidence, dealing with uncertainties, the concepts of regulation and feedbacks and, perhaps most importantly of all, the relationship between science and society.

They are also some of the most important ones for children to learn given the immense impact climate change will have on the world they grow up into.  Extreme weather is already taking a major toll on UK agriculture http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/16/uk-farmers-face-disaster and this video of the largest glacier calving ever filmed - bigger than Manhattan, from the film 'Chasing Ice' is eyewitness evidence of the dramatic changes currently taking place as a result of climate change.

There is a consultation form here which you can download to express your views, or respond to this post to express an interest in contributing to a CHC consultation response.