It’s easy to think about the global climate crisis in the abstract. Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s death gave it a face. The 9-year-old girl’s fatal asthma attack might have passed without public notice except for the fact that, after a long legal fight, it became the first British death officially attributed to fossil fuel-caused air pollution. When she died in 2013, no doctors mentioned environmental causes. Had her mother known that their southeast London neighborhood’s air was so toxic — and could worsen with dramatic temperature change — she said she would have moved the family somewhere safer.
The question remains: Did the medical profession have a responsibility to tell her?
Preventing this kind of tragedy, most doctors and medical associations now agree, starts with better training. In the U.S., where recent research has found that one in ten premature deaths are caused by air-polluting fossil fuels, medical schools have only begun grappling with a lack of curricula focused on climate change in the last couple of years. Now, a small group of physicians are arguing that only a broader reckoning can help their profession meet the challenge posed by clim... Read more