Like smoking, the public's addiction to fossil fuels is incredibly bad for our health. In fact, cigarette smoke is essentially the indoor version of what we are now experiencing outdoors. "According to the World Health Organization, air pollution from burning fossil fuels kills more than 7 million people each year around the world. This is more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined," reports Gary Cohen, the President and Founder of Health Care Without Harm, in the article below. Although it was no small battle, the health sector ultimately had success in fighting the tobacco wars of the 1960s by divesting from tobacco companies, educating leaders and building broad community coalitions. Medical groups in Europe are already asking the health sector to get involved in the move away from fossil fuels, as are Climate for Health leaders who represent health professionals across key health care, public health, clinical and medical institutions and associations. Now, we need a movement. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, please join us in kicking our addiction to fossil fuels and beginning our recovery.
Roll Call I March 9, 2015
By Gary Cohen
In the 113th Congress, members took in more than $40 million dollars in campaign contributions from oil, gas and coal companies — the same companies that receive $37.5 billion in U.S. subsidies. We’ve seen this dependency on corporate money before, during the tobacco wars of the 1960s. From that campaign, we learned how critical divestment is for social change.
Kicking an addiction is never easy. It’s particularly hard when it involves an entire society — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Health care professionals have fought relentlessly against tobacco addiction, with considerable success. It has been an impressive campaign, in which divestment from tobacco companies played a major role. We pushed Congress to divest their campaign contributions too. Now 193 members haven’t taken any tobacco money in 10 years and have been certified “Tobacco Free.” Between 1965 and 2009, the number of people that quit smoking doubled and billions of dollars in health care costs were saved.
As Congress now knows, we’re up against the same old tactics for a new dangerous addiction: fossil fuels. We built our entire global economy on a fossil fuel infrastructure and watched fossil fuel companies become among the wealthiest corporations on Earth. This addiction, like smoking, is incredibly hazardous to our health.
Several British medical groups asked the health sector to divest from fossil fuels entirely, calling it “a responsibility to future patients.” They drew on their past leadership in the tobacco divestment campaign and took a brave step in adding their voices to this battle. Others are joining the fight too: Gundersen Health System froze its fossil fuel investments earlier this year and Norway’s sovereign-wealth fund, the largest in the world, announced that it has divested itself from 114 risky assets on environmental and climate grounds over the past three years.
Stay connected and get updates from Climate for Health.Subscribe