Health profession should repeat its leadership on tobacco divestment because of health risks from climate change and air pollution, says Medact and other groups
|Cooling towers from a fossil fuel power plant. The health sector should divest from|
such companies, campaigners say. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/Murdo Macleod
The health sector should get rid of its fossil fuel investments on moral grounds, as it previously did with its tobacco investments, according to a report by a coalition of medical organisations.
The report cites climate change as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” and says air pollution from fossil fuels also causes millions of premature deaths a year. The organisations argue that the health sector, and in particular the £18bn Wellcome Trust, should not be helping to fund the harm they exist to tackle.
“The link between fossil fuels, air pollution and climate change are clear, and the health impacts are unacceptably high,” said Dr David McCoy, director of health charity Medact, which produced the report with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, the Climate and Health Council, Healthy Planet UK, and Medsin. “This report sends an unequivocal message that the health sector should end its financial association with the fossil fuel industry.”
The report argues that the tobacco and fossil fuel industries have both worked to create doubt about the harm the use of their products can cause.
“The UK health profession led the way in the tobacco divestment movement two decades ago, putting the issue firmly on the political agenda and paving the way for stronger anti-tobacco legislation,” writes public health professor Martin McKee, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in the report. “This report shows why, in 2015, fossil fuels can no longer be considered an ethical investment. This is one of the defining challenges of our time.”
The members of the British Medical Association have already voted to divest from fossil fuels, the first health organisation in the world to do so. But the Wellcome Trust has rejected the call.
“Climate change is one of the greatest contemporary challenges to global health, and the Wellcome Trust has made understanding the connections between environment, nutrition and health one of our five key research challenges,” said a spokesman for the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s biggest funders of medical research. “We understand the aims of the campaign to encourage divestment from fossil fuel industries. We do not however support the approach and continue to believe that engagement offers a better prospect for change than divestment.”
The Trust was unable to give the Guardian examples of its engagement with fossil fuel companies. Its endowment, worth £18bn in total, has £450m invested in Shell, BP, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton alone. But the Trust was unable to tell the Guardian the value of its total fossil fuel holdings.
The report also calls for the UK’s medical Royal Colleges to divest. A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Surgeons said: “We will review the findings of the report and any implications for our investment portfolio.”
Over 180 institutions, including city authorities, universities and churches, have already committed to divesting $50 billion of fossil fuel investments, a move backed by South African anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The world’s governments have pledged to limit carbon emissions so that global warming is kept below a 2C danger limit. A series of analyses have found this means much of the world’s known and exploitable fossil fuels will have to remain unburned. A comprehensive scientific study in January found 80% of coal reserves, 50% of gas reserves and 33% of oil reserves would have to remain in the ground.
Analysts warn that these unburnable fossil fuel reserves will become worthless if government’s act on their pledge, creating a significant financial risk to investors. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, and Bank of England head Mark Carney have both warned of the risk, as does the new report.
Recently, Axa Investment Managers warned the reputation of fossil fuel companies were at immediate risk from the divestment campaign and Shell backed a shareholder demand to assess whether the company’s business model is compatible with global goals to tackle climate change.
Alistair Wardrope, student doctor and co-author of the new report, said: “People worldwide are already dying as a result of the health impacts of fossil fuels, but tomorrow’s doctors will have to cope with the full extent of climate change’s health cost. We have a responsibility to our future patients to ensure that health organisations are not funding the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”
One of the wealthiest men in the U.S., Warren Buffett said Monday
that he would double his renewable energy investments. Video
screenshot: Georgetown University/YouTube
"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)
“… 4 - Energy (again)
The natural resources of the planet are finite and will not support the continuation of what you've been doing. We've been saying this for a decade. Watch for increased science and increased funding for alternate ways of creating electricity (finally). Watch for the very companies who have the most to lose being the ones who fund it. It is the beginning of a full realization that a change of thinking is at hand. You can take things from Gaia that are energy, instead of physical resources. We speak yet again about geothermal, about tidal, about wind. Again, we plead with you not to over-engineer this. For one of the things that Human Beings do in a technological age is to over-engineer simple things. Look at nuclear - the most over-engineered and expensive steam engine in existence!
Your current ideas of capturing energy from tidal and wave motion don't have to be technical marvels. Think paddle wheel on a pier with waves, which will create energy in both directions [waves coming and going] tied to a generator that can power dozens of neighborhoods, not full cities. Think simple and decentralize the idea of utilities. The same goes for wind and geothermal. Think of utilities for groups of homes in a cluster. You won't have a grid failure if there is no grid. This is the way of the future, and you'll be more inclined to have it sooner than later if you do this, and it won't cost as much.
We've told you that one of the greatest natural resources of the planet, which is going to shift and change and be mysterious to you, is fresh water. It's going to be the next gold, dear ones. So, we have also given you some hints and examples and again we plead: Even before the potentials of running out of it, learn how to desalinate water in real time without heat. It's there, it's doable, and some already have it in the lab. This will create inexpensive fresh water for the planet.
There is a change of attitude that is starting to occur. Slowly you're starting to see it and the only thing getting in the way of it are those companies with the big money who currently have the old system. That's starting to change as well. For the big money always wants to invest in what it knows is coming next, but it wants to create what is coming next within the framework of what it has "on the shelf." What is on the shelf is oil, coal, dams, and non-renewable resource usage. It hasn't changed much in the last 100 years, has it? Now you will see a change of free choice. You're going to see decisions made in the boardrooms that would have curled the toes of those two generations ago. Now "the worst thing they could do" might become "the best thing they could do." That, dear ones, is a change of free choice concept. When the thinkers of tomorrow see options that were never options before, that is a shift. That was number four. ….”