Climate and Our Role as Public Health Advocates

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What is the psychiatrist’s role in climate change? One reader responds.

climate change

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FROM OUR READERS

This article is a response to the article “We Cannot Abandon Youth to Climate Anxiety” by Robin Cooper, MD.

I welcome Robin Cooper, MD’s request for civilized discussion on psychiatrists’ role within the climate crisis.1 I also read with interest Elizabeth Haase, MD’s commentary, “To Assume Among Them the Powers of the Earth,” in which she states in response to Held v Montana, “As psychiatrists, we have a particular legal duty to protect children from mistreatment and neglect,”2 connecting our legal and ethical duty to the fight against fossil fuels.

We may all agree the climate is warming and that difficult steps must be taken to effect change. However, her connection of the ethical role of psychiatrists to the task of banishing fossil fuels is naïve. In his article, “The ‘Energy Transition’ Delusion,” Manhattan Institute senior fellow Mark P. Mills writes, “Despite ever-escalating rhetoric, an ‘energy transition’ away from society’s dependence on hydrocarbons is not feasible in any meaningful time frame, and it is a dangerous delusion to base policies on the idea that such a transition is possible.”3 He goes on to say that, “new energy sources should be considered additives, not outright replacements for oil, natural gas, and coal” and fully replacing hydrocarbons would require unprecedented mineral demands.3

Time will tell if Held v Montana, which gave 18 young defendants the right to sue based on injuries received from climate warming is upheld or overturned on appeal. Travis Fischer wrote in the Cato at Liberty blog, “For judges or policymakers who would ban fossil fuels—which provide 80 percent of our primary energy sources (domestically and globally)—please consider the cost.”4

Dr Haase is recognized as a psychiatric leader in the field of public health and the climate cause. Psychiatrists, however, can recognize fully the dangers of a warming climate but disagree on the specifics of a time frame to sun, wind, battery or the use of carbon neutral fuels as an additive to fossil fuels rather than outright disregard of their value altogether as we proceed into an uncertain geopolitical future.

Dr Varas is a psychiatrist in Westwood, New Jersey.

References

1. Cooper R. We cannot abandon youth to climate anxiety. Psychiatric Times. November 10, 2023. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/we-cannot-abandon-youth-to-climate-anxiety

2. Haase E. To assume among them the powers of the Earth. Psychiatric Times. 2023;40(10).

3. Mills MP. The “energy transition” delusion: a reality reset. Manhattan Institute. August 30, 2022. Accessed November 28, 2023. https://manhattan.institute/article/the-energy-transition-delusion

4. Fischer T. Parsing the factual errors in the Montana climate ruling, part one. Cato at Liberty. August 18, 2023. Accessed November 28, 2023. https://www.cato.org/blog/parsing-factual-errors-montana-climate-ruling-part-one

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