Hot Topic’s NZ election 2011 series continues with an excellent piece by Dr George Laking, an Auckland-based medical oncologist. George is a member of OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health, a group of senior doctors and other health professionals concerned about the effects of climate change on population health. This article first appeared in the NZ Herald on Nov 17th.
This month the International Energy Agency published its latest World Energy Outlook. It says if high-carbon energy investment continues for more than five years, atmospheric carbon dioxide will unavoidably overshoot 450 parts per million and global warming will exceed 2C. The agency’s chief economist says “I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum. The door will be closed forever .”
The IEA is not a fringe organisation, and it is not alone in accepting the scientific work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The World Bank says “The countries of the world must act now, act together and act differently on climate change.”
Senior officers from the UK Ministry of Defence identify climate change as “an immediate, growing and grave threat” to global health and security. Leading international medical journal The Lancet calls climate change “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”. Risks include extreme weather events, loss of food and political security, and increased range of infectious diseases. The World Medical Association has urged doctors to take action to mitigate the effects of climate change.