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J Med Ethics. 2014 Apr;40(4):288-90. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2012-101084. Epub 2013 May 11.

Climate change matters.

Abstract

One manifestation of climate change is the increasingly severe extreme weather that causes injury, illness and death through heat stress, air pollution, infectious disease and other means. Leading health organisations around the world are responding to the related water and food shortages and volatility of energy and agriculture prices that threaten health and health economics. Environmental and climate ethics highlight the associated challenges to human rights and distributive justice but rarely address health or encompass bioethical methods or analyses. Public health ethics and its broader umbrella, bioethics, remain relatively silent on climate change. Meanwhile global population growth creates more people who aspire to Western lifestyles and unrestrained socioeconomic growth. Fulfilling these aspirations generates more emissions; worsens climate change; and undermines virtues and values that engender appreciation of, and protections for, natural resources. Greater understanding of how virtues and values are evolving in different contexts, and the associated consequences, might nudge the individual and collective priorities that inform public policy toward embracing stewardship and responsibility for environmental resources necessary to health. Instead of neglecting climate change and related policy, public health ethics and bioethics should explore these issues; bring transparency to the tradeoffs that permit emissions to continue at current rates; and offer deeper understanding about what is at stake and what it means to live a good life in today's world.

KEYWORDS:

Distributive Justice; Health Economics; Population Growth; Public Health Ethics; Public Policy

PMID:
23665996
DOI:
10.1136/medethics-2012-101084
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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