Medical leaders urge ministers to end new oil and gas exploration

Medical leaders have called on the UK government to halt new oil and gas exploration to avoid further damage to the nation’s health.

Demonstration against the Cambo oil field, 7 November 2021.
Photo: Friends of the Earth Scotland

A letter, signed by the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Paediatricians, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Psychiatrists, urged an end to the country’s dependence on fossil fuels to tackle climate change and fuel poverty.

The medical institutions, along with more than 600 individual health professionals, said there should be an immediate end to new North Sea oil and gas licences. They also called for an equitable energy transition to renewables.

The letter to the Prime Minister said a consultation on 30 new offshore oil and gas fields contradicted international recommendations against further fossil fuel developments.

The United Nations Environment Programme and the International Energy Agency said last year that development of new oil and gas fields must stop if the world was to meet the global warming limit of 1.5C.

The medics’ letter said:

“The country is facing two crises with the same underlying cause: the UK’s continued reliance on expensive and polluting fossil fuels for its energy supply.

“Millions of UK households face real energy poverty, whilst the impacts of climate change are already affecting the country.

The letter said:

“as healthcare professionals, we know that any new fossil fuel projects and their contribution to climate change constitute a grave threat to our patients and the resilience of our healthcare system”.

It said energy poverty, driven by rising bills, would lead to worsening health and increased winter deaths. It called for emergency support for vulnerable households.

The letter also called for end to subsidies for oil and gas extraction, redirection of funds to green industry and an end to the policy of Maximum Economic Recovery (MER) for the North Sea.

Dr Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:

“It seems utterly wrong that at a time when the role of fossil fuels in climate change is better understood than ever, that anyone should think that drilling for oil is a good thing.

“The climate change we are witnessing is on a scale that is already harming health and will only get worse. Any short-term profits will soon be forgotten by everyone living with the consequences.”

Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:

“We must move away from our dependence on harmful fossil fuel-based energy by rejecting proposals for new oil and gas fields, and instead focus on developing sustainable, renewable and affordable alternatives that will keep us and our planet healthy.

“Not only will this benefit the nation’s mental and physical health, but it also informs an effort to ensure that the cost-of-living crisis we are currently experiencing becomes a thing of the past.

“We urge the Government to curtail activities, which we know are contributing to the climate and ecological emergencies.”

Mark Hayden, paediatric cardiac intensivist at Great Ormond Street Hospital said: 

“People in the UK are now being pushed into poverty because of our over reliance on fossil fuels.

“The government must stop locking us into this expensive, polluting fuel by handing out even more licences, which it knows will lead to dangerous climate change, when it should be directing that investment into cheap, clean renewable energy.

“The health benefits of transitioning away from unaffordable fossil fuels are innumerable but the government must act to make them happen.”

41 replies »

  1. The upshot of that, is that the Medical leaders who have called on the UK government to halt new oil and gas exploration to avoid further damage to the nation’s health, are perfectly correct.

    “A letter, signed by the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Paediatricians, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Psychiatrists, urged an end to the country’s dependence on fossil fuels to tackle climate change and fuel poverty.”

    20 million deaths due to fossil fuel pollution worldwide is unacceptable.

    Allowing the resurrection of further fossil fuel exploration and extraction is only going to make fossil fuel pollution to claim even more deaths worldwide.

    When the entire country has been locked down for merely a small percentage of equivalent deaths due to the pandemic, 1 7th, or 1 20th depending upon which statistics you look at.

    Then it is totally hypocritical of this government to allow further fossil fuel pollution when locking down the entire country for far fewer deaths than are caused by fossil fuel pollution.

    Mathematics does not lie. That privilege is left to those who see only greed and profit over lives.

  2. “The upshot of that, is that the Medical leaders who have called on the UK government to halt new oil and gas exploration to avoid further damage to the nation’s health, are perfectly correct.”

    This would of course help if the rest of the world did the same – which they will clearly not (see Norway link in previous post). So consumption / pollution continues in the UK with or without UK produced oil and gas, we just import more as required. This may be from new developments in Norway or other countries. So they are not correct as it won’t make any difference what the UK does re new Oil and Gas developments, the transition will continue as currently underway. Simple isn’t it?

    Perhaps the Drs will give up their fossil fuel lifestyles, take a proportionate pay cut as Government income reduces with declining oil and gas production and usage? Perhaps not?

    It would be interesting to see a figure for how many lives have been saved / extended due to fossil fuel usage – it will be significantly greater than 20million…..

    • 20 million what Paul? As usual you fail to acknowledge the facts and even cannot complete the full sentence because it is embarrassing.
      However, now you have at least acknowledged the first part of the sentence referring to the fact that (to complete the sentence you seem to have an aversion to) 20 million deaths are caused worldwide by fossil fuel pollution.

      Try to write the entire sentence and let that BMJ fact checked fact sink in.

      And then you can also consider, that the 20 million figure (1 in 5) of all deaths worldwide for every reason, is just the tip of the melting ice-berg. That there are almost certainly 10, 50, 100 times more people whose health has been damaged to the extent of severe impairment due to fossil fuel pollution. Medicine tends to care for the living, and hence the figure worldwide due to fossil fuel pollution that are of interest to the Medical Profession are far greater. Perhaps 10 times: 200 million people with their health damaged by fossil fuel pollution, perhaps 50 times: 1,000 million people (1 billion people). Perhaps 100 times more people suffering from fossil fuel pollution worldwide: 2,000 million (2 billion people. How about addressing those figures while you are at it? Are you going to complete those sentences too?

      Also, there is the fact that the industrial revolution put many hundreds of thousands of people in the worst possible living conditions in the west at least. Terrible sanitary conditions (insanitary), terrible treatment by greedy profit motivated owners who exploited not only men and women, but children as well. No health or medical professions because the people and children were given slave wages and still expected to pay for renting their insanitary conditions’ ad pay for fuel to heat and food and water to eat.

      So, I hardly recommend the example of the First Industrial Revolution as an example of progress for anyone but the owners and for an example of the owners’ humanity to their slaves.

      In fact, it is a matter of history in the UK in particular that all the achievements of sanitation, workers rights and freedoms to be treated fairly and to have their children educated, not forced down mines or up chimneys, or forced to suffer pollution from the workplace for a decent living wage came not from the owners, but from the people themselves. And that is still ongoing. Sanitary conditions such as decent drainage and street cleaning came about only because so many workers were dying of insanitary disease conditions. and that was onlt done because too many workers were dying or were unfit to work and that was decreasing the factory owner’s profits due to lack of workers and the spreading of diseases due to pollution and insanitary working conditions.

      Not such a great advert for fossil the fuel industry, is it. But it is a great advert for all those normal people who forced so many of the freedoms in recent history. The Suffragettes fight for women’s rights to vote, the ending of slavery and child trafficking (Slavery and child trafficking still a worldwide gross insult to humanity). The rights to freedom of human rights and of health and sanitary living conditions. That is the true story of the First Industrial Revolution. And it’s all due to normal people. Governments, factory owners and the fossil fuel industry have stalled and compromised those successes as often as they can. And still do.

      • The truth is much more inconvenient than you would like to admit, isn’t it.

        The monopolistic use of fossil fuels have caused just as many problems as they are claimed to solve. So in the example of the First Industrial Revolution, as has been so oddly provided by your esteemed colleague over page, amongst other expletives. Progress in any form, be that access to food, water, fuel, freedom and a fair wage for a fair day’s work did not come from the owners of the filthy polluting factories and mines, but from the people who were forced to work in the unsanitary and dangerous working and living conditions themselves.

        The other claim that all these progresses came only from access to fossil fuels is also not so bright or correct either. Since, the fossil fuel industry has made absolutely certain that it has maintained its monopoly over energy production and use. Both in the fossil fuel industries methods of production and by restricting any possible efficiency and that use of fossil fuels has been entirely kept expensive and manipulated upwards by speculation and manipulating political instabilities to the point where people can no longer afford to heat their homes and the choice has been food or heat.

        When the ordinary everyday people began to learn about the dangers of fossil fuels at COP26, there was, and still is, a massive move for ordinary people to move away from fossil fuels. That must surely have become a great threat to the fossil fuel corporations and heralded a reduction in their profits. Then right in time there were a number of really rather inconsequential events worldwide which rapidly increased the cost of gas in particular and energy in general. That, in combination with the sudden promotion of the dodgy situation in Ukraine, which is far from new and has been going on for decades. A situation that is apparently exacerbated by all sides.

        And that is used to lift the fracking moratorium in the UK? Much better that Jaw, Jaw prevails over War, War, and further fossil fuel exploration and extraction are left in the ground where nature gas sealed them away from the environment to prevent further deaths and health issues, isn’t it.

        There is the issue of cause and effect, isn’t there. A little too convenient an excuse to remove the moratorium in the UK of fracking, perhaps?

        That excuse that people have benefitted from fossil fuels has been extensively and somewhat over enthusiastically proposed here on Drill or Drop as an excuse for more and more fossil fuel exploration and extraction. The inconvenient truth, however, is that the best direction to progress, is that the efforts must be concentrated on the logical and less polluting alternatives. There have been many progresses in innovative energy production and use that do not, or only marginally, include fossil fuel production and use. Eventually that too can be tightly controlled and perhaps even eliminated after new technology supersedes its use.

        It is no secret that there have been many individuals throughout recent history who have invented and developed alternative energy resources, such as Nicola Tesla and many others. What happened to the efficient internal combustion engine that could travel at 100 miles to the gallon? The Australian inventor that built a car that ran on water alone? The plasma spark plug that would have increased internal combustion engine efficiency by 70%? What about car and vehicular fuel vaporisation technology and browns gas generated injectors to increase internal combustion engine efficiency? Where are they now? Where is tidal power generation for this island country? Why are wind generators only concentrated on massive three bladed oversized old technology, when the best wind generator technology is small, shrouded and efficient even at very low wind speeds whereas the massive wind generators are grossly inefficient, and should be mounted everywhere as local resources, not wasted on the energy grid. The same with solar power. Small is beautiful. Small is efficient. Local is best.

        Not so cut and dried, is it? The resulting overall picture of fossil fuels reveals that, technology and innovation will help to solve many problems, just so long as the problems and their causes are acknowledged. To have fossil fuels used as a basis to explore and recognise those problems, in order to develop the best solutions, is counterproductive, and primarily self-defeating.

        Maybe it’s better to answer what the fossil fuel corporations are going to do about reducing the deaths due to fossil fuel pollution worldwide. If that is not to be a reduction of fossil fuel exploration and production, then what? What about the increase in temperature to 2.4 degrees Celsius worldwide? What about preventing further release of methane from frozen deposits under the oceans and at the poles? What will the fossil fuel corporations do to reduce and turn around the present 6th extinction event in the Earths history? What will the fossil fuel corporations do to reduce the inevitable health problems that will continue if fossil fuel exploration and extraction is continued?

        What are the fossil fuel corporations going to do about the legacy of hundreds of years of polluting toxic chemical dumps including the plastics in the oceans, the microplastics from the highest mountain to the lowest oceanic trenches, and discovered in newborn babies and in all adults worldwide. How much will that cost the fossil fuel industry to remove and deal with the consequences and repair the damage to health?

        To deal with that. Cue the Windfall Tax on fossil fuel corporations at the very least.

  3. They might be perfectly correct if the alternatives were in place that provided a coherent alternative. Bit like doctors-and some do-stating that antibiotics shouldn’t be used. Sadly, that means people don’t get the health care they deserve. Same with animals. Certain bodies promote non use of antibiotics yet ignore animal welfare by doing so. Same with vaccinations. Plenty of groups who discourage.

    The alternatives are not there, and will not be for decades. Ostrich like, the antis and some politically motivated medics will ignore it. What was it that Lenin (apparently) called them?

    Meanwhile, another storm on it’s way and many will expect when the power lines go down that the diesel generators will be there to assist, the trucks will arrive thanks to the diesel and the chain saws will work. And the farmers will ignore vegetable oil, fill up with red diesel and help out local communities.

    But, Paul is correct. There are plenty of doctors on very high incomes. Looks as if a windfall tax could be levied?!

    • If it wasn’t for fossil fuels, then 20 million people per year worldwide would still be alive……without fossil fuels and no one would need to post on this board since it would never have been necessary, and it wouldn’t exist…..


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