Comments by Tomislav Svoboda on the Peoples Climate Plan

Tomislav Svoboda MD, PHD, FRCPC, CCFP People’s Climate Plan Press Conference

January 28 2019

Thank you for inviting me to say a few words. I'm here to endorse the People's Plan for Climate Change, a growing and evolving document.

We as physicians and medical professionals cannot be more emphatic.
Climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.
It is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.

This and similar statements have been made and endorsed by top physicians and medical organizations nationally and internationally.

  • The Candian Medical Association,
  • The Canadian Public Health Association,
  • The World Medical Association and
  • the World Health Organization among many others.

There are a growing list of impacts on human health and welfare due to climate change:

  • there were 157 million more people exposed to extreme heat in 2017 than in 2000
  • there were 153 billion labour hours lost due to heat, 62 billion more than 2000
  • there are increases in vector borne illness and spread of such disease in previously unaffected areas
  • 30 countries are currently experiencing reductions in agricultural yeilds
  • there were $326 billion in economic losses in 2017, 3x more than 2016 losses
  • Right now, World population projections predict that there will be 10 to 11 billion people by 2050 (nearly 50% more of us in 3 decades) putting further pressure on limited resources and increases in greenhouse gas emitting activities

Wars are increasingly becoming wars over oil. They are now erupting due to draughts and predicted to soon be due to food and water shortages.

As physicians and first responders to increases in vector-borne disease, to respiratory illnesses, to food and water scarcity, to the aftermaths of traumatic weather events, rampant forest fires and wars over disappearing and limited resources we are telling Doug Ford and other provincial and world leaders that climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.

Top greenhouse carbon activities are also toxic to our health. Car based transport and animal rich diets alone are responsible for nearly 50% of greenhouse gases. At the same time, driving cars, flying in planes, burning fossil fuels and eating diets rich in animal products are resulting in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and cancer. These are conclusions by top medical scientists in top medical journals.

As with tobacco we can curb these activities, through firm action and healthy alternatives. Building the right infrastructure like transit systems, pedestrian areas and bike lanes will encourage active transport such as cycling, walking and taking public transit. Resulting active lifestyles could result in 25-30% reductions in breast cancer, colon cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression. Similar improvements can be expected with promoting plant based or plant rich diets. With regard to dietary changes, leading medical studies in top journals are calling for policies to help reduce animal products in western diets by up to 80-90%.

It took us 35 years to reduce tobacco smoking by 50% through the courageous and unprecendented actions taken by the entire country - including taxes of up to 70% per cigarette, and legislation limiting access to cigarettes and where they can be smoked.

That's 35 years to reduce smoking by 50%.

We now have 11 years to achieve the same reductions in Green House Gas emitting activities.

As front line experts in efforts to change behaviour on individual and societal levels to improve health, we as physicians can tell you that optional behaviour changes with some incentives as proposed in Doug Ford’s climate plan doesn't work. Whether it's getting us to quit cigarettes, wear seatbelts or not drink and drive, relying on education and optional incentives will not work and didn't work. All these society wide changes required legal, financial and social: structural changes, penalties, and heavy enforcement in the presence of healthier alternatives to work. Education and optional incentives won't work and haven't worked.

The OECD, the World Bank, the International Monetary fund as well as leading medical groups are all calling for a price on carbon. We need to pay if we want to pollute. It's one of the positive elements in capitalism. Accountability. We take responsibility for cleanups and alternatives, by paying. No free lunch. No pollution gravy train. We just gave Nobel Prizes for these same conclusions.

Given our experience with drinking and driving,
Given our experience with seatbelts
Given our experience with tobacco
Given our experience with putting a price on carbon and pollution in other jurisdictions

Thinking that we can effect massive societal change, 50% emission reductions in 11 years without a price on carbon,

Doug Ford, what are you smoking?
What are we all smoking?