July 12, 1996
Geneva -- Top medical specialists on the effects of global warming on human health Friday accused energy corporations of working to undermine international efforts to halt climate change.
The attack came amid growing controversy at a two-week United Nations conference on how far to limit the "greenhouse gas" emissions, mainly from burning of oil and coal, blamed by key scientists for rising world temperatures.
"The fossil fuel lobby is beginning to behave like the tobacco industry did 30 years ago, as adverse health effects of smoking first emerged," Anthony McMichael of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said.
"It is using a typical rearguard action, through attempts at distortion, delaying tactics and making enough noise to drown out the arguments for strong moves by the world's political leaders to cut emissions," he told a news conference.
The fossil fuel lobby, he said, sensed that in what was for them "a big deal issue," governments were beginning to recognize that climate change was affecting not only farms, forests and fisheries but could have an impact "on the well-being, the health, and in some instances the survival of human communities."
McMichael, an Australian professor of epidemiology, was backed by Professor Andrew Haines of the London Medical School and Dr. Rudolf Stroof, head of the environmental hygiene department of the World Health Organization (WHO).
"We are the first generation of people on this earth with the capacity to knowingly inflict damage on the environment and the health of future generations," Haines said.
The three were presenting a WHO study which they partly authored warning that global warming could bring health disaster around the world over the coming decades and the advance of tropical diseases into temperate zones.
The study, "Climate Change and Human Health," was prepared alongside a wide-ranging report issued in December by the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which concluded human activity was responsible for warming.
The IPCC report, at the focus of discussion at the current conference, was prepared by some 1,500 scientists, economists and health experts. But its findings are being attacked as "premature" by powerful fuel industry groupings.
Heading the assault is the U.S.-based Global Climate Coalition (GCC), which includes major U.S. oil and mining corporations, and has been lobbying Congress and the U.S. administration to block any decision on emission cuts.
The GCC this week sent a letter signed by 119 top U.S. industrial executives, including oil corporation chiefs, to President Clinton from Geneva arguing that reducing coal and oil use would cost jobs and badly hit the U.S. economy.
Also active at the conference, due to take decisions on whether to set legally-binding targets for emissions at a meeting of ministers next week, is a coalition of Australian energy bodies, the Industry Greenhouse Network (AIGN).
They have issued their own report arguing that even observing targets for lowering emissions set by the 1992 Climate Change Convention, which few countries are meeting, would cause a trade slump and economic chaos in the Asia-Pacific region.
The AIGN's stance has the support of the Australian government, whose delegation in Geneva has accused the European Union -- which as en entity backs strict specific targets for reductions -- of hiding its own failure to act after 1992.
But the energy lobby has been countered by a coalition of major insurance companies, hit by the steeply mounting cost of a sudden surge in natural disasters over the last two decades which the IPCC says is partly due to global warming.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C íŸ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.