There is going to be a significant impact on climate change on healthcare. And healthcare has a substantial effect on the production of gas emissions.
I have recently been listening to the podcast Explore the Space with Dr Shapiro. He invited Dr Nick Watts from Lancet Countdown on his show to discuss climate change. And I was so surprised to learn how much healthcare impacts on climate change and in what way does climate change impact on healthcare.
I did not know that healthcare produces 5-10% of the greenhouse gas emissions within each country. And this is a considerable amount of emissions. Cleaning of the medical instruments produces a significant amount of gas emissions. But so does all the rubbish that we generate in hospitals (very little is recyclable in New Zealand), transport of people to and from hospitals (appointments etc.), transport of all medical equipment (especially in NZ where a lot of this transport is via planes) etc.
The impact of climate on health is present on many levels, few I have been aware of and few I have not:
All this will lead to less food for people to eat, loss of areas for people to live in, mass migration, wars etc. And this is bad for all countries.
How can we slow down the rate of this happening?
We have to talk to our governments, hospitals and all people to minimise the production of carbon emissions. We can do this by relying on renewable energy and not fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are oil, coal and natural gas. We rely on fossil fuels for electricity production as well as for transport.
We also have to find a way to reduce the effect that biofuels have on the economy, especially in New Zealand, where we produce a lot of biofuels. Biofuels are produced from plants (wood logs for example), but also agricultural, commercial, domestic or industrial waste. New Zealand has an extensive agricultural biofuel footprint (dairy industry, for example, and production of methane).
How can healthcare help?
We can help by recognising the footprint that we produce and minimise it. We should encourage recycling of the waste and waste minimisation, use of sustainable healthy food, reduce travel and use of carbon-neutral travel. We should advocate for the development of a low-carbon economy.
So let's do it.
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I am Breast, Endocrine and General Surgeon.
Wakefield Specialist Medical Centre
99 Rintoul St, Newtown
Waikanae Specialist Centre
Boulcott Specialist Centre
666 High Street, Boulcott