Physicians and their Obligations to Climate Change

“Since the 1970s, climate change has caused more than 140 000 deaths per year; by 2030, the direct cost to health is expected to be between US$2 and US$4 billion per year. We would not be the first to say that this may be the foremost public health issue of our era.”
Barbara Sibbald, editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)

In the most recent issue of the CMAJ (the publication produced by the Canadian Medical Association), the editorial written by Barbara Sibbald is entitled “Physicians’ roles on the front line of cliamte change.” Citing the overwhelming concensus among climate experts around the world that global warming is indeed real and is threatening the harm of many people on our planet—particularly in the future—she encourages physicians as leaders in health to do something about it. Continue reading

Is Ours a Lost Generation?

Some of my friends have vast email distribution lists for funny or amusing emails of which I happen to be one of many recipients. I’m sure you can relate. Some of these emails are lame and some are titillating (and usually NSFW).

But every once in a while I get one that gives me pause. One that makes me see things a little differently. Those ones are special.

I got this particular video recently called “Lost Generation.” It was produced by the AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons. Although it touches on global warming and climate change, its message is much broader. Watch it and see how brilliantly they turn a situation that seems hopeless into one that seems inspiring.

The Ethics of Politicians' Beliefs About Climate Change

“Although ordinary individuals may have no duty to go beyond their own personal opinion about the science of climate change, government officials who have the power to enact policies that could present catastrophic harm to millions of people around the world may not as a matter of ethics justify their refusal to support policies to reduce the threat of climate change on the basis of their uninformed opinions on climate science.”
Donald A. Brown, Scholar In Residence, Sustainability Ethics and Law, Widener University School of Law

I’ve always been bothered when certain politicians would argue that we shouldn’t do anything about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, that there’s too much uncertainty on the subject. But I’ve always believed that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, only I’ve lamented that it’s very unfortunate when some of the misinformed are elected officials.

But Donald A. Brown has offered a different perspective that I must admit makes good sense to me. Elected officials have a duty and responsibility beyond us mere ordinary citizens because they have the power to enact policies based on this information, policies that could help to prevent harm to millions of people in the future.

Rather than simply summarize Brown’s points, I thought I’d share his video that spends a few minutes explaining his points quite well. If you’d like to learn more you can check out his website.

Canadian Study To Look Into Wind Turbine Syndrome

How do you prove that Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS) exists? That living too close to large-scale wind turbines has adverse effects on your health? Proponents of wind energy cite the fact that there is a real lack of hard data proving any definite harmful effects from infrasound or whatever it is that might be causing harm from wind turbines. Even last year’s study that was touted as evidence manged to show only that the self-reported complaints were higher among those living near wind turbines. But correlation does not equal causation, an important principle in science.

So the Canadian government has decided to launch an investigation into something a little more concrete than just self-reported complaints. If stress is higher in someone, levels of the hormone cortisol will climb in response. There can be breif spikes from short-term stress, and there can be chronically elevated levels if stress levels are high chronically.

And one way to measure those stress levels is from hair samples. Hari grows at the rate of about a centimetre a month, so three centimetres of hair will preserve the cortisol levels of the last three months and, therefore, reflect what the stress levels for people have been.

Beginning in May, a collaboration between Statistics Canada and Health Canada will look to 1,200 people who live within ten kilometres of wind turbines to supply hair samples to allow assessments of cortisol levels.  Continue reading

Arctic Sea Ice Loss: It's Worse Than We Thought

“Other people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive. What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid.”
—polar scientist Axel Schweiger

By now most people are well aware of the shrinking ice cap at the North Pole. Side-by-side comparisons of satellite photos of the Arctic show that in the last thirty years the size of the ice cap has shrunk dramatically.

What a lot of people forget is that those side-by-side photos only tell part of the story. They are limited to showing the shrinking area covered by the ice cap. But there’s a third dimension to that floating ice cube up north, and the thickness or volume has been declining too. But by how much?

A new report just published online in Geophysical Research Letters reveals that the Arctic sea ice volume is now only 20 percent of what it was back in 1979, 3261 cubic kilometres down from 16,855 cubic kilometres. Continue reading