Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Climate change is very much of our own making...but as doctors, we have a vital responsibility to urge the development of a health-in-all-policies approach." (Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia/flickr/cc)

Leading Doctor Calls Climate Change Gravest Health Threat of 21st Century

'When you cannot feed your children, you will do anything, even if it means going to war. This is the reality of climate change'

Nadia Prupis

Climate change is the greatest threat to public health worldwide and doctors must step up to help mitigate it, according to a leading advocate speaking at the annual Canadian Medical Association (CMA) meeting in Vancouver on Monday.

Dr. James Orbinski, a former top official with the medical charity Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), who is now an an associate professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, urged physicians to "step up and step out" in the fight against climate change as part of their duties to create "health-in-all" policies.

"We're not separate from our biosphere, or our planet," Orbinski told the audience of 600. "We can't possibly live, survive, and thrive without our biosphere. It affects us and we affect it."

"Climate change is very much of our own making...but as doctors, we have a vital responsibility to urge the development of a health-in-all-policies approach," he said.

The summit is taking place following extreme weather events and other environmental catastrophes throughout Canada, from wildfires in Fort McMurray to a massive oil spill in Saskatchewan.

The Vancouver Sun reports on Orbinski's comments:

Droughts, fires like the one in Fort McMurray in May, floods, food security and infectious diseases are all linked to climate change.

Mental health problems and respiratory ailments from air pollution as well as rising rates of infectious diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease are also some of the consequences of climate change.

He also noted that Canada's yearly rate of warming is twice the global pace, which means the effects of climate change will increase as time goes on, absent a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

"The implications are utterly profound," Orbinski said.

"People go to war over water, food and territory, and when you cannot feed your children, you will do anything, even if it means going to war. This is the reality of climate change."

CMA president Dr. Cindy Forbes said the organization would attempt to create an action plan. "I appreciated greatly Dr. Orbinski's call to action, and I agree as a nation and as a planet we cannot ignore climate change," she said.


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.

To 'Step Back From the Edge of Recession,' UN Urges Central Banks to Stop Rate Hikes

The UNCTAD chief warns that "the current course of action is hurting the most vulnerable, especially in developing countries, and risks tipping the world into a global recession."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Their Greed Knows No Bounds': Analysis Shows Ongoing Price Gouging by Oil Giants

"Big Oil is boasting record profits and dragging their feet to pass any lower costs onto consumers in order to keep padding investors' pockets," said Accountable.US.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Doing This for My Son': UK Climate Activist Gives Interview While Handcuffed, Hauled Off by Cops

"The government's inaction on climate change is a death sentence to us all," the Just Stop Oil protester said.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Dr. Oz Is a Puppy Killer': Fetterman Campaign Responds to Reporting on Animal Testing

"This is who Dr. Oz is: unconscionable and a danger to others," said Fetterman's wife, activist Gisele Barreto Fetterman.

Julia Conley ·


'We Must Not Stand By': Amnesty Urges State Leaders to Ban Guns Near Polling Places

"Governors and secretaries of state must do everything in their power to ensure the safety of voters and poll workers this November."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo