Monday, December 14, 2009

And to your left, an epic fail...

The AMA (Australian Medical Association) reacted to the recent Climategate scandal (and the impending demise of a treasured funding cash cow) with the balanced approach it is well known for and released a statement entitled:

The evidence is in - climate change is a serious threat to human health

Yep, no agenda there. Dr. Pesce, the AMA president then goes on to explain (whilst apparently clinging to Kevin Rudd's ankles and pleading as the PM boards the plane to Copenhagen) that:

“While the Copenhagen talks will be about carbon emissions and targets and helping developing countries, equal emphasis must be directed to equipping the health systems of the world to cope with the extra health burden created by climate change. Plans to deal with that burden should be put in place immediately, and Copenhagen is the perfect place to implement the strategies. "

This is nothing new, because the AMA has had a position statement on climate change since 2004 (updated 2008) that along with all the usual alarmist screamies also prominently displays their "get-out-of-jail-free" clause:

...because climate change involves potentially serious or irreversible harm to the environment and to human health, it is essential to adopt mitigation strategies that reflect a precautionary approach even where uncertainties may exist in relation to scientific evidence.

Ahh, the good 'ole precautionary principle. This is where it's OK to act in response to an uncertain future event, as long as you think the risk of not acting is greater than that of acting. This worked out pretty good for John Snow, the father of modern epidemiology, when he traced a cholera epidemic to a water pump on Broad Street and famously removed the pump handle to quell the outbreak even though the causative organism had not been identified. (It was thought that cholera was caused by "miasms" of bad air generated from grave yards and swamps, Dr. Snow thought otherwise, although he was pilloried for many years for going against the accepted scientific consensus. You see, John Snow was a skeptic.) Making a bunch of people schlepp a few blocks to another water pump for a week is one thing, crippling national economies for the entire foreseeable future is entirely another.

Generally, when applying the precautionary principle it was always customary to perform some sort of risk-benefit analysis. This is why we don't use amniocentesis for population screening of pregnancy. The number of miscarriages caused by population wide amnio would approach the number of abnormal pregnancies picked up, so precautionary principle be damned, its not worth it. Its also why CT scans, with their attendent higher dose of radiation, are used only when the risk of not doing the scan outweighs the cumulative lifetime risk of radiation induced cancer (although in certain unscrupulous parts of the world *cough* USA *cough* this isn't strictly adhered to as often as it should be). Apparently though, climate change somehow negates this important caveat, which the AMA ably demonstrates in it's position statement when it lists as health impacts of extreme climate events the following:

  • dietary changes due to cost and availability of food,
  • possible impact of chemical exposures (resulting from spills from damaged pipes,
    industrial storage, etc.).
  • impact of changes to infrastructure and essential services
  • lapsed chronic disease management
  • stress from loss of income and assets.

Which is wierd, because I would have thought that all of these events are far more likely to occur as a result of financial factors resulting from implementation of their beloved precautionary principle. Unless "extreme climate events" is referring to a poverty tsunami, I'm definitely thinking I could come up with some much more feasible and immediate reasons why these impacts on health could occur. ETS, anyone? Global Financial Crisis 2.0? Bad policy decisions? Massive slush funds being siphoned off to developing nations? I'm not sure, let me think about it.

I've never really liked the AMA anyway. A quick scroll through the references included in their climate change position statement reveal they even reference my favourite nut-jobs over at Doctor's for the Environment, which highlights some of the backroom circle jerks that go on in the alarmist milieu (and no, I won't link it, 'cause I hates them).

They also ditched the Hippocratic Oath and make you swear to the Declaration of Geneva, which is mostly OK, but I'm a bit worried by the bits where you promise:
  • I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
  • My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
Do I have to? Really? What if their due is a (hypothetical) dose of Sennocot in their tea for that time they made you fetch them coffee all day and then asked you to disempact a pensioner's bowel, when you were clearly rostered on to another, more exciting rotation?

I was sort of fond of the Hippocratic Oath, even though it made you promise to share your wordly goods with your teachers, I kind of liked the bit where you promised not to have sex with slaves. Couldn't we combine the best bits of the two?

NB: A note on spelling: Whilst I will vigorously defend my right to use the antiquated Queen's Own English spelling of aetiology, oesophagus, centre and colour to name a few, I like spelling skeptic with a K instead of a C. Just because.


  1. Climate isn't the issue here. Its all about creating a new global market to keep the capitalist machine chugging along a little bit longer. That just what the ETS is: a politician's wet dream - total control and even more of our money that they get to spend to further their own poitical agendas. (its conspiracy week here at casa de dd).

  2. And an excellent dig at the AMA. thanks - they need it. Self-important lot that they are.


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