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Updated at 4:18 pm on 17 September 2009
Medical leaders all over the world are warning of a global health catastrophe if governments cannot agree on cuts in greenhouse gases when they meet at Copenhagen in December.
In articles in The Lancet and British Medical Journal, 18 professional medical organisations say developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly vulnerable.
They say that what is good for the climate is good for health, because curbing climate change would have other benefits, such as healthier diets and cleaner air.
December's United Nations summit in Copenhagen is charged with drawing up a new global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
A letter signed by leaders of 18 colleges of medicine and other medical disciplines across the world reads: "There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these. Should their response be weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic."
The current Lancet and BMJ editorial that accompanies the letter argues that climate change strengthens the cases that health and development charities are already championing.
"Even without climate change," it says, "the case for clean power, electric cars, saving forests, energy efficiency and new agriculture technology is strong. Climate change makes it unanswerable."
Written by Lord Michael Jay, who chairs the health charity Merlin, and Professor Michael Marmot of UCL, the editorial argues that there are plenty of "win-win solutions" available: "A low-carbon economy will mean less pollution. A low carbon-diet (especially eating less meat) and more exercise will mean less cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease."
Copyright © 2009, Radio New Zealand
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