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Request to UK Gov: Put Warnings on Fossil Fuels

Ben Dolbear reports on the unprecedented article published in the British Medical Journal calling on the government to put cigarette-style health warnings on fossil fuels.

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Britain's leading medical journal has published an unprecedented article arguing for further regulation on fossil fuels, including cigarette-style health warnings.


The article, published by a group of scientists headed by Mike Gill, outlines the urgency of the call by emphasising why global emissions must fall in order that the Earth sees a necessary temperature reduction to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.


The 'low cost, scalable intervention' involves the use of clear warning labels at points of purchase of fossil fuel energy services, from petrol stations to airline ticket checkouts.


The move, which would be enforced by government in a similar style to heavily regulated cigarette labelling, should also be extended to energy bills with clear wording expressing that continuing to burn fossil fuels will only worsen the climate emergency, bringing global catastrophe ever closer, according to the authors.


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It is hoped that such regulation will lead to substantial changes in consumer behaviour, as was seen with the October 2015 move by David Cameron's government to charge five pence for plastic bags in supermarkets. Explaining the logic behind their bold recommendations, the authors added:


Warning labels connect the abstract threat of the climate emergency with the use of fossil fuels in the here and now, drawing attention to the true cost of fossil fuels (the externalities), pictorially or quantitatively.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that the globe now has under three decades to keep global warming under two degrees by achieving net-zero emissions, with climate advocates arguing for much faster action if we are to avoid widespread human and animal carnage as a result of a rapidly changing climate.


According to a 2016 study by the Penn Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS), visual health warning labels (HWLs) on cigarette packets are highly effective in persuading smokers to quit, which has encouraged climate scientists to believe that the same effect can be seen on consumers of services relying on fossil fuel extraction.


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