Saturday 8 September 2012
MEDIA RELEASE: Dr George Laking, for OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council
Doctors Welcome Decision On Treacherous Temperature Case
The New Zealand Climate and Health Council welcomes Justice Geoffrey Venning's rejection of the New Zealand Climate
Science Education Trust's (NZCSET) case against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
Spokesperson Dr George Laking says the medical profession recognises human-induced climate change as the number one
threat to health this century. Health risks of climate change start with injury from heatwaves and storms, more tropical
illnesses, and ultimately threaten collapse of food supplies and political insecurity from crop failure, coastal
inundation and ocean acidification. Global food prices are already rising with the extreme drought affecting half of the
"Yet it has been incredibly frustrating for us as medical scientists to see political action on climate change
repeatedly obstructed by groups such as the NZ Climate Science Coalition and their wealthy backers, apologists for the
tobacco industry and the fossil fuel and mining industry."
Dr Laking says climate sceptics have pretended there is scientific doubt where it does not exist. “They are no different
from tobacco company executives, who as recently as 1994 testified that “nicotine is not addictive”.
Ironically, NZCSET is part of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, which links with Big Tobacco. Tobacco giant
Philip Morris funds the Heartland Institute in the United States, which funds climate deniers worldwide – including the
NZ Climate Science Coalition. “Having tried to confuse and deny the evidence with tobacco, they are now doing the same
for our destabilising climate, through people like the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. Still peddling lies that
kill, they are delaying action essential to protect human health”, says Dr Laking.
The artificial climate of pseudoscepticism has made it very hard for the New Zealand public to understand how urgently
we must move to a low carbon economy. Yet there are real health gains from low carbon measures including sustainable
transport and local production of food and renewable energy.
"It is our responsibility to decarbonise the economy right now" ends Dr Laking. "The technologies already exist. We owe
it to the health of current and future generations. New Zealanders should see Justice Venning's ruling as a wake-up
call, and not be lulled into complacency by the fossil fuel industry and its helpers".
• High Court decision against the NZCSET, reported 7 September 2012 ‘Climate sceptics fail in NIWA case’ http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/7634489/Climate-sceptics-fail-in-NIWA-case
, ‘Sceptics lose fight against Niwa temperature data’ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1=10832396
• The tobacco industry has distorted scientific evidence on smoking and health, described in medical journals eg.
• The Philip Morris tobacco company has funded the Heartland Institute
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/20/who-funds-thinktank-lobbyists?INTCMP=SRCH , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heartland_Institute
• Heartland Institute funds the NZ Climate Science Coalition
• Barry Brill, ACT Candidate for Northland in 2011, Chairs the NZ Climate Science coalition
Alan Gibbs, New Zealand businessman, funds the ACT Party and is policy adviser for the International Climate Science
Coalition (which the NZ Climate Science coalition belongs to) http://deepclimate.org/2009/08/01/meet-alan-gibbs-builder-of-amphibious-humvees-and-climate-science-coalitions/#more-568
OraTaiao:The NZ Climate & Health Council
Dr George Laking is a medical oncologist (i.e. cancer specialist) and health economist based in Auckland. He is an
Executive Board and founding member of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.
About The Heartland Institute, Big Tobacco, climate deniers, and the NZ Climate Science Coalition
NZCSET is part of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition has received
funding from the Heartland Institute (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1=10782486
), which funds climate deniers worldwide (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/20/who-funds-thinktank-lobbyists?INTCMP=SRCH
). The Heartland Institute is funded by US tobacco giant Philip Morris. In the 1990s, Heartland worked with Philip
Morris trying to muddy the waters, falsely, around the link between second-hand smoke and health risks. Heartland also
distributed tobacco-industry material, published ‘policy studies’ that summarised Philip Morris reports, and otherwise
lobbied for Big Tobacco (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heartland_Institute
). The tobacco industry is well known for muddying sceientific evidence (http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/1/2.full
About climate and health
Climate change is widely recognised by world health authorities and leading medical journals to be the biggest global
health threat of the 21st century and this is well-accepted by New Zealand medical professional bodies. Major
threats—both direct and indirect—to global health from climate change will occur through water and food insecurity,
threats to shelter and human settlements, population displacement and migration, extreme climatic events, changing
patterns of disease, risks to security (e.g. war), and loss of economic potential.
Conversely, addressing climate change is an opportunity to improve population health and reduce inequities. In New
Zealand, well designed policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can bring about substantial health co-benefits
including reductions in heart disease, cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, respiratory disease, and motor vehicle
injuries, and improvements in mental health. These substantial health gains are possible through strategies such as
transport infrastructure redesign to encourage active travel, healthy eating (including reduced red meat and animal fat
consumption), and improving home insulation.
About OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate & Health Council www.orataiao.org.nz
OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council is an incorporated society comprising over 150 senior doctors and
other health professionals concerned about climate change impacts on health and health services. Leading medical bodies
throughout the world are saying that politicians must heed health effects of climate change, doctors must speak out, and
doctors demand their politicians be decisive, listen to the clear facts and act now. OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate
and Health Climate is part of this international movement. It has published a number of articles about climate change
and health in peer-reviewed medical journals, which can be found on its website www.orataiao.org.nz.
The Council’s messages include:
• Climate change is a real and urgent threat to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
• New Zealand must be an active partner in global cooperation to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions to
350ppm CO2equivalents by:
o rapidly halving our own emissions by 2020;
o paying our fair share of international investment in a global future.
• New Zealand can, and must, respond to climate change in ways that improve population health, accord with Te
Tiriti o Waitangi, create a more equitable, just and resilient society, and promote a healthier economy within
ecological resource limits.
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