Doctors Decry 'Record Profits' for Fossil Fuel Companies as Climate Change Weighs on Global Health

Nearly 100 authors contributed to The Lancet's annual report on climate change and health, which detailed how heat waves, drought, and air pollution are killing thousands.

A natural gas flare burns near an oil pump jack at the New Harmony Oil Field in Grayville, Ill., on 19 June.
Source: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Doctors are taking aim at the fossil fuels industry, placing blame for the world’s most dire health problems on the companies that continue to seek oil and gas profits even as climate change worsens heat waves, intensifies flooding, and roils people’s mental health.

“The burning of fossil fuels is creating a health crisis that I can’t fix by the time I see patients in my emergency department,” said Dr. Renee Salas, summarizing the findings of a report published in The Lancet. “Fossil fuel companies are making record profits while my patients suffer from their downstream health harms.”

Salas, an emergency medical physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is one of nearly 100 authors who contributed to the prestigious medical journal’s annual report on climate change and health.

The report accuses fossil fuel purveyors—and the governments that subsidize them—of subverting “efforts to deliver a low-carbon, healthy, livable future” and demands that world leaders pursue a health-centered approach to solving the climate crisis.

The report’s theme reflects a growing frustration and helplessness expressed by medical professionals left to deal with the effects of climate change as world leaders struggle to address the root cause.

“The report highlights the harm the fossil fuel industry has really wreaked in creating this crisis,” said Dr. Jerry Abraham, the director and chief vaccinologist at Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, who was not involved in writing the report. “Foe is a harsh word, but it has to be used.”

As in previous reports, the 2022 Lancet Countdown paints a grim picture of how climate change is threatening people’s health and the care systems that are supposed to help manage it, calling its latest findings the “direst” yet. This year’s report leaves little ambiguity about who the doctors view as responsible for the harms and stresses they feel in clinics.

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