Open Access Commentary

General Practitioners’ responses to global climate change - lessons from clinical experience and the clinical method

Grant Blashki1*, Alan Abelsohn2, Robert Woollard3, Neil Arya4, Margot W Parkes5, Paul Kendal6, Erica Bell7 and R Warren Bell8

Author Affiliations

1 Nossal Institute for Global Health & The Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne, 161 Barry St, Carlton, Melbourne, 3010, Australia

2 Department of Family and Community Medicine and Dalla Lana School of PublicHealth, University of Toronto, 1466 Bathurst Street, #205, Toronto, ON, M5R-3S3, Canada

3 Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia, 320-5950University Blvd, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada

4 Director Global Health Office Western University AssistantClinical Professor Family Medicine McMaster University and Adjunct Professor Environment and Resource Studies University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada

5 School of Health Sciences, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, V2N 4Z9, Canada

6 Rural Coordination Centre of British Columbia, University of British Columbia, 300 - 5950 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada

7 University Department of Rural Health, University of Tasmania, Elizabeth St, Hobart, 7001, Australia

8 Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment Active Staff, Shuswap Lake General Hospital Salmon Arm, Salmon Arm, BC, V1E 4S2, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

Asia Pacific Family Medicine 2012, 11:6  doi:10.1186/1447-056X-11-6

Published: 8 August 2012



Climate change is a global public health problem that will require complex thinking if meaningful and effective solutions are to be achieved. In this conceptual paper we argue that GPs have much to bring to the issue of climate change from their wide-ranging clinical experience and from the principles underpinning their clinical methods. This experience and thinking calls forth particular contributions GPs can and should make to debate and action.


We contend that the privileged experience and GP way of thinking can make valuable contributions when applied to climate change solutions. These include a lifetime of experience, reflection and epistemological application to first doing no harm, managing uncertainty, the ability to make necessary decisions while possessing incomplete information, an appreciation of complex adaptive systems, maintenance of homeostasis, vigilance for unintended consequences, and an appreciation of the importance of transdisciplinarity and interprofessionalism.


General practitioners have a long history of public health advocacy and in the case of climate change may bring a way of approaching complex human problems that could be applied to the dilemmas of climate change.