Patients are expressing alarm about anthropogenic climate change (“global warming”); the most prominent medical journals apparently accept it as fact; and the American Thoracic Society introduced a resolution to the 2008 AMA House of Delegates meeting to endorse the findings of the 4th United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Nonetheless, “there appears to be little evidence in the learned journals to justify the climate-change alarm that now harms patients,” writes Klaus-Martin Schulte of the Department of Endocrine Surgery, King’s College, London.
An editorial in the British Medical Journal of Dec 1, 2007, threatens that “the impact of climate change will get much worse, and predictions of a hundred million climate refugees is no longer fanciful.” Indeed, “unless we cap carbon emissions in ways that ensure transfer of resources to the poorer nations, we may all go the way of the dinosaurs” (Gill M, et al. BMJ 2007;335:1104-1105).
“We consider this to be the greatest public health disaster facing us today and one that requires…radical action to reduce CO2 emissions as a matter of extreme urgency,” write Alan Maryon-Davis and Patricia Hamilton (BMJ 2007;335:1110).
The New England Journal of Medicine offers free public access to an alarmist 2005 article by Paul R. Epstein on “Climate Change and Human Health” (N Engl J Med 2005;353:1433-1436), along with an audio interview.
JAMA features predictions by World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan of food insecurity and increasing disease burdens, owing to “rising temperatures and the effects of extreme weather events” (JAMA 2008;299:2267).
But what is the evidence? Schulte reviewed 539 abstracts of scientific papers published between 2004–mid February 2007 from ISI Web of Science, using the same methodology as Naomi Oreskes. In her oft-cited review of 928 abstracts of papers published between 1993 and 2003, Oreskes asserted that none of the papers had rejected the “consensus view” that most warming over the past 50 years was related to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.
The percentage of papers with an “explicit or implicit endorsement” of the consensus view fell from 75% to 45%, Schulte states. Only 7% contained an “explicit endorsement,” and 6% had an “explicit or implicit rejection.” Although the political pressure for energy rationing has intensified, only 24% of recent papers contain new data or observations on climate change, only 2% offer new data or observations relevant to anthropogenic v. natural change, and none had quantitative evidence for the consensus. Only one paper mentioned “catastrophic” climate change.
“The prediction of consequences of changes that are only predicted to happen is burdened with serious methodologic problems,” Schulte concludes. “This inherent degree of uncertainty and the herein shown lack of consensus do not support a further induction of fears of climate related illness and death in the medical world and its patients” (Schulte KM. Energy & Environment 2008;19(2)).
What Schulte does not mention is the serious critique of Oreskes and the censorship of the discussion. Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University reviewed Oreskes’s set of nearly 1,000 documents and concluded that only one-third backed the consensus view, and only 1% explicitly (Sunday Telegraph 5/1/05).
- “Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act Costs Opposed by 90% of Americans, as Tax Revolt Spreads in Europe,” AAPS News of the Day 6/5/08.
- Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules Climate, ed by S. Fred Singer, Heartland Institute, 2008.
- “The New Totalitarians,” Civil Defense Perspectives, July 2007.