A new momentum is growing to address medicine’s oversized carbon footprint. Yet in many countries the movement to decarbonise health care remains in catch-up mode. The lagging position of medicine in the greening of industry is paradoxical when one considers the burden of illness related to climate change. Millions of preventable deaths per year are now attributed to the direct effects of anthropogenic climate change, with far worse to come in the near future. Reducing fossil-fuel energy use and developing lower-emissions supply chains, infrastructure, and care will have a role in decarbonising health care. But insufficient attention is paid to the health-care sector’s use of disposable equipment, which has been regarded as a virtue, not a vice, for many decades. The modern medical enterprise is distinctively wasteful, producing a series of ecological effects that are not simply fungible with carbon offsets. Yet hazardous medical waste that requires extensive handling accounts for only 15% of global health-care waste. Discarded materials that are disposable rather than reusable comprise the remaining 85% of medical waste. Enormous volumes of plastic packaging, single-use tools, and diagnostic devices produce greenhouse gases when incinerated or while decomposing in landfills and oceans. . .
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