Doctors should think less about the health of their patients and more about the health of the planet, an editorial in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) has urged.
The editorial, published as part of a special edition dedicated to the forthcoming COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, says that medical treatment contributes significantly to "greenhouse gas emissions" and that this carbon footprint can be reduced if only "health professionals" can learn to reduce "overdiagnosis" and "overtreatment".
Healthcare contributes 4-5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the NHS, 62 per cent of these emissions are from its supply chains and 24 per cent from delivery of care. Health professionals can be institutional leaders who drive decarbonisation in hospitals through reducing overdiagnosis and overtreatment in healthcare, eliminating waste, streamlining services, and better managing suppliers and procurement. All of these efforts will bring us closer to making healthcare more sustainable.
One of the bigger problems, a separate piece argues, is all those pesky suspected cancer patients who tiresomely insist on getting as early a diagnosis as possible. They need to learn to wait, argues one Rammya Mathew:
The pressure to diagnose cancers earlier and earlier is another major contributor to modern medicine's carbon footprint. Over successive years we've been told to continually lower our threshold for suspecting cancer, and we're encouraged to investigate sooner and more extensively. In primary care, most patients with mildly elevated or even high normal platelet counts now undergo a barrage of investigations in case thrombocytosis is an early indicator of underlying cancer. What does the yield of these tests have to be to make this an acceptable approach? And shouldn't we be considering the environmental impact of putting so many patients on a conveyor belt of investigations, as part of cost-benefit calculations?
But hey, why stop at letting the occasional undiagnosed cancer patient die? What we should really be doing is forcing everyone to go vegan and make everyone travel by bicycle...
Adopting the largely plant based planetary health diet and taking most journeys using a combination of walking, cycling, and public transport would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve our health.
Animal sourced foods (meat, dairy, fish) generally use much more land and water and create more greenhouse gases than plant sourced food. Sustainable and healthy diets consist largely of diverse plant foods with low amounts of animal source foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and limited amounts of refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars. The nature and scale of change required depends on existing dietary patterns and nutritional status of local populations. For example, to meet the planetary health diet recommendations, average meat consumption in Africa can slightly increase (2 per cent), whereas in North America and Europe it needs to fall by 79 per cent and 68 per cent, respectively.
Sustainable land travel will involve substantially fewer journeys by car and more journeys taken by foot, bicycle, and public transport, ensuring that all transport is carbon neutral and powered by renewable energy. This requires a transformation of the energy sector and transport infrastructure, prioritising active and public transport over road building. Estimates of the nature and scale of change needed vary. In the UK, for example, a central net zero pathway includes car mileage per driver falling by 10 per cent by 2050, whereas other analysis calls for a reduction between 20 per cent and 60 per cent by 2030, depending on the speed of transition to electric vehicles.
Old fashioned types who imagine doctors should be concentrating on healthcare rather than engaging in environmental activism may be puzzled by this. But they shouldn't be. The Climate Industrial Complex - and the sinister billionaire backers behind it, such as the World Economic Forum - has run a hugely successful gaslighting operation in which schools, universities, the entertainment industry, big business, and the mainstream media now broadcast nothing but environmental scare stories. Any stories providing evidence that the global warming scare has been massively overblown are ruthlessly suppressed.
Hence, for example, the recent announcement by Google that it will demonetise media that "contradicts the scientific consensus on climate change". (Spoiler: there is no such thing as "consensus" in science. There is definitely no "consensus" on climate change, neither on the causes nor the solutions. If there were a consensus Google would not need to indulge in censoring dissident voices because everyone would agree on the subject already).
Tony Heller's point on this is well made:
Galileo contradicted the scientific consensus of geocentricism
Wegener contradicted the scientific consensus that continents can't move
Einstein contradicted the scientific consensus of Newtonian physics
Someday your climate cult will be remembered with the same disdain.
Yes. But before we reach that state of enlightenment, how many people will need to die of undiagnosed cancer as woke doctors sacrifice them on the altar of their "planetary emergency"?
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