PSR mobilizes physicians and health professionals to contribute public health solutions for climate change and nuclear weapons abolition.
Reframing Nuclear Disarmament as a Health and Humanitarian Issue PSR’s Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program has contributed to the international civil society movement that has tactfully reframed the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons as an urgent health and humanitarian issue.
With the guidance of partners International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), civil society advocates helped bring the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to fruition at the United Nations. On July 7, 2017, more than 120 nations voted to adopt the first-ever treaty that categorically prohibits nuclear weapons, following prior successful bans on chemical and biological weapons that achieved their sharp curtailment.
Physicians and health professionals’ medical expertise contributed to the successful adoption of the treaty:
- In 2013, PSR and IPPNW co-released the report Nuclear Famine: 2 Billion at Risk?, which offers scientific data on the global health and climatic impacts of a regional nuclear war. This foundational study grounded ICAN’s claims about the immense and horrific humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in scientific evidence.
- PSR board member and co-president of IPPNW Ira Helfand, MD contributed testimony on the medical consequences of nuclear weapons to the 2016 Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) established by the U.N. General Assembly. The OEWG voted to recommend to the U.N. First Committee that the U.N. sanction negotiations for a treaty.
- In July 2017, PSR’s team of physicians attended the U.N. negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to lobby national delegations to cast their vote in support of the treaty. PSR delivered 22 “yes” votes, contributing to a successful vote of 122 nations in support of the adoption of the treaty, one against and one abstention.
The treaty fills the legal gap in international humanitarian law and cultivates new international norms stigmatizing nuclear weapons to pressure the nuclear-armed states to commence further negotiations for a detailed agreement setting forth detailed verification and enforcement mechanisms for nuclear disarmament.
In December 2017, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded ICAN the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their work raising awareness on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and achieving the milestone treaty.
Collaboration Yields Valuable Health Resources
PSR’s partnerships with allied organizations in the climate movement have yielded valuable health resources for advocates.
Saving Energy, Saving Lives: The Health Impacts of Avoiding Power Plant Pollution with Energy Efficiency
In January 2018, PSR and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released the report, Saving Energy Saving Lives, that examines the public health benefits and medical cost savings of cutting annual electric consumption by 15 percent. The report also ranks the top beneficiaries among the states and the 50 largest U.S. cities.
A 15 percent nationwide reduction in annual electric consumption means that we would see:
- More than six lives saved each day.
- Up to $20 billion in avoided health harms.
- Nearly 30,000 fewer asthma attacks.
In June 2019, PSR and Concerned Health Professionals of New York released the sixth edition of the Compendium. The report summarizes and links to an almost encyclopedic compilation of reports, peer-reviewed articles and investigative reporting on fracking’s dangerous impacts on health, highlighting factual evidence that fracking for oil and gas hastens climate change and harms human health.
Here are the five key findings highlighting the trends in the emerging scientific evidence on fracking:
- Serious harm to public health, and no regulatory framework can prevent those harms.
- Drinking water contamination from drilling, fracking, and disposal of fracking waste.
- Fracked gas is a grave threat to the climate, and may be worse than coal due to substantial methane leaks.
- Fracking infrastructure poses serious exposure risks to those living nearby.
- Fracking raises environmental justice issues.
Maryland Fracking Ban Victory
In 2017, Chesapeake PSR contributed to a statewide coalition that successfully banned fracking. Chesapeake PSR submitted detailed comments to the Maryland Department of Energy outlining how regulations are insufficient to protect residents from the health and environmental harms of fracking. Chesapeake PSR amplified the voices of physicians, health professionals and scientists on the health harms of fracking in Maryland and joined a coalition of other health professional organizations in Maryland focused on achieving a fracking ban. 220 health professionals signed Chesapeake to submit to the Governor to showcase widespread support among health professionals for the fracking ban. On April 4, 2017, Governor Hogan signed Maryland’s fracking ban into law.