The World Medical Association (WMA) has urged its national members and all health organizations to divest from fossil fuels and transfer their funds to renewable energy sources, stating, "the effects of climate change and its extreme weather are having a significant and sometimes devastating impact on human health.... The world now needs to transfer to electricity suppliers who are renewable."
WMA also told its 112 national medical association members and other health groups to advocate for their governments to shape economic policies around environmental impacts.
The announcement, which came last week during the association's annual summit in Taiwan, is the latest signal that medical organizations are making the connection between climate change and public health.
"Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred in the first 15 years of this century. The vulnerable among us, including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty, are most at risk from these changes. Yet they are the people least able to adapt to the new conditions," said Dr. Dong Chun Shin, chair of the WMA committee that crafted the divestment call.
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"We know that fossil fuel air pollution reduces quality of life for millions of people worldwide, causing a substantial burden of disease, economic loss, and costs to healthcare systems," Shin said. "The health consequences from asthma and heart and lung disease are considerable. The world now needs to transfer to electricity suppliers who are renewable."
Climate campaigning group 350.org, which has advocated for divestment, welcomed the news.
Yossi Cadan, the group's global senior divestment campaigner, responded Wednesday, "Given the devastating impacts climate change and pollution from fossil fuels have on human health, it's not surprising that doctors now prescribe divestment from fossil fuel companies. Health organizations, and those that care about the well-being of people, should urgently heed the call to distance themselves from companies fueling climate change."
350 said the announcement is similar to the medical community's previous call to divest from Big Tobacco, noting the similarities between that industry's tactics and those of Big Oil. News outlets and environmental groups recently exposed a decades-long campaign by ExxonMobil to suppress climate science about greenhouse gases and mislead the public about the impact of fossil fuels on the environment.
"[W]e urgently need to be investing in solutions that benefit communities," Cadan said. "A divestment a day keeps the fossil fuel industry away."