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Climate change is the biggest health threat of the 21st century. A primer of the literature

In 2009 the Lancet stated “Climate change is the biggest health threat of the 21st century” This article is intended for the student members of Doctors for the Environment Australia but all doctors are life-long students, so we hope it will be used by all. It is the second of two Primers on climate change science and health impacts. The first article is here

With the window to prevent a 2 degree C rise in temperature rapidly closing and with global emissions rising relentlessly we must acknowledge our failures; the torch must be passed to the medical students and young doctors. Increasingly they are accepting the challenge.

The title of this article was part of an Editorial in the Lancet 2009 and two years into the century we are already counting the international deaths, injuries and illness from climate change, particularly from storm and flood and from malnutrition in children.

Many of the articles cited challenge the medical profession to become involved active and vocal. Overall the profession has failed in this issue with a lack of commitment from the main medical organisations. As a result other organisations of doctors have been formed to advocate and educate

Doctors for the Environment has had this role in Australia. In the US Physicians for Social Responsibility has filled the gap. PSR is excellent and have produced some superb reports. In the UK the British Medical Journal and the Lancet have provided a key role in promoting the issue to doctors and public

Many of the articles listed below are from these organisations or their members. Articles with * are to start off with if you are relatively new to the topic

Physicians for Social Responsibility
Go to Global Warming for information on all health impacts

Doctors for the Environment Australia
*Climate Change Health Check by Graeme Horton and Tony McMichael

*Climate Code Green – the impacts of climate change on human health
This an excellent motivational video produced by DEA and AMSA students.

Climate Change and Health: Policy Priorities and Perspectives
By Professor Tony McMichael, a member of DEA Scientific Advisory Committee and former advisor to WHO
The Climate Commission Australia
* The Critical Decade; climate change and health.
British Medical Journal
Spotlight on climate change 2012
This is an excellent series of articles by experts on climate change and health. Good as an update, or to give to colleagues or to elected representatives.

The Lancet
A series of articles on climate change and health published in 2009-2010, Here
The World Health Organisation (WHO)
Climate change and human health
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Health and Environment Chapter of the OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction

Other articles
*Health and Climate Change: 7 Ways You Are Being Harmed
By the late Paul R. Epstein, M.D., M.P.H., who was associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School

Children’s vulnerabilities to climate change and disaster impacts in East Asia and the Pacific,
Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It [Hardcover] MD Paul R. Epstein (Author), Dan Ferber (Author), Jeffrey Sachs (Foreword)