Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Doctors and researchers say climate change is a global health problem. (Photo: Light Brigading/flickr/cc)

Top Doctors Call on Charities to 'Do No Harm' and Divest from Fossil Fuels

'A decision not to divest will continue to bolster the social license of an industry that has indicated no intention of taking meaningful action'

Sarah Lazare

Fifty of the world's leading medical doctors and researchers on Thursday joined in the call for two multibillion dollar charities—Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation—to divest their endowments from "the world’s 200 largest fossil fuel companies over the next five years"—because global health depends on it.

"Divestment rests on the premise that it is wrong to profit from an industry whose core business threatens human and planetary health, bringing to mind one of the foundations of medical ethics—first, do no harm," wrote the doctors and scholars in an open letter published in The Guardian.

Signatories included Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of The British Medical Journal, Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, and professors from across the United Kingdom.

Stop!

We Interrupt This Article with an Urgent Message!

Common Dreams is a not-for-profit news service. All of our content is free to you - no subscriptions; no ads. We are funded by donations from our readers.

Our critical Mid-Year fundraiser is going very slowly - only 1,165 readers have contributed so far. We must meet our goal before we can end this fundraising campaign and get back to focusing on what we do best.
If you support Common Dreams and you want us to survive, we need you now.
Please make a tax-deductible gift to our Mid-Year Fundraiser now!

Not surprisingly, they grounded their plea in scientific evidence: "It is uncontested that the majority of carbon reserves listed on stock exchanges must remain underground if we are to avoid exceeding a 2C rise in global mean temperature and the catastrophic health impacts this would have. Our current business-as-usual trajectory commits us to over 2C warming—a point scientists have described as the threshold between 'dangerous' and 'extremely dangerous'—within decades."

The experts noted, "Our primary concern is that a decision not to divest will continue to bolster the social license of an industry that has indicated no intention of taking meaningful action."

In issuing the call, the doctors join in a campaign initiated by the Guardian in March, targeting these two charities that purport to view climate change as a serious threat.

However, they also join a growing global movement to divest from the fossil fuels industry. Thanks to pressure from the grassroots, a large number of major institutions worldwide have agreed to divest, including more than: 30 colleges and universities, 40 cities, 80 religious institutions, 30 foundations. Meanwhile, there is a growing push from within the divestment movement to couple divestment efforts with reinvestment in front-lines communities that are already bearing the brunt of climate change—and building grassroots solutions for climate and economic justice.

Earlier this week, the Lutheran World Foundation announced it will join this international campaign by divesting from the fossil fuels industry and encouraging member churches to do the same. Supporters say this latest development is yet another sign that momentum is building on a large scale.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Incredible': Omar and Khanna Staffers Join Levin's Office in Unionizing

"It is long past time the United States Congress became a unionized workplace, and that includes my own staff," said Rep. Ilhan Omar. "I am proud of all the people on my team who have played a leading role in the staff unionization effort. Solidarity forever."

Jessica Corbett ·


Destructive Hurricanes Fuel Calls for Biden to Declare Climate Emergency

"Mother Nature is not waiting for the president or Congress to declare a climate emergency. She's showing us in real-time here in the United States—with wildfires, floods, heatwaves, hurricanes, and drought."

Jessica Corbett ·


Spain Approves 'Solidarity' Tax to Make Nation's Top 0.1% Pay a Fairer Share

The country's finance minister said that looming changes are bound to make the tax code "more progressive, efficient, fair, and also enough to guarantee social justice and economic efficiency."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Time to Take to the Streets': Working Class Hold 'Enough Is Enough' Rallies Across UK

"Does a CEO need an extra zero at the end of their salary—or should nurses, posties, and teachers be able to heat their homes?" said one supporter ahead of the #EnoughIsEnough National Day of Action.

Julia Conley ·


Ukraine Responds to Putin Annexations With Fast-Track NATO Application

Lamenting the lack of any progress toward a diplomatic settlement, one anti-war campaigner asked: "Will the world stand idly by as we careen towards nuclear apocalypse?"

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo