Feeds

Health sector spews out much more carbon than airlines or IT

When will Greens act against the real eco-villains?

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

American researchers have estimated that the US health care sector is responsible for "nearly a tenth" of the nation's carbon emissions. This is almost triple the amount emitted by aviation and around four times that emitted by the IT industry, suggesting that green groups should shift the focus of their advocacy.

"The health care sector, in general, may be a bit slower than other sectors to put this on their radar screen,” says Jeanette Chung PhD, a medical scientist at Chicago Uni, who carried out the research together with colleague Dr David Meltzer.

Chung and Meltzer say that American healthcare, including activities such as hospitals, scientific research and the production and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs, was found to produce eight per cent of the country’s total carbon emissions. By contrast the US aviation sector is responsible for around three per cent and IT is usually assessed at around two per cent.

Despite the fact that hospitals and health care are directly damaging the environment far more than airliners or gadgets, campaigning organisations such as Greenpeace tend to focus their efforts mostly on the latter.

The health sector, by contrast, tends to get a free ride. Indeed, in Blighty there has lately been an occasional tendency for doctors to start chiding their patients for destroying the planet, hypocritical of them as this now turns out to be.

"Given the focus on health care policy and environmental policy, it might be interesting - if not wise - to start accounting for environmental externalities in health care,” speculates Chung.

The airline industry is already doing so - some aviation executives believe that carbon penalties could edge out maintenance to become the second-biggest cost in running a jet, and serious research is going into more fuel-efficient aircraft at the moment.

But the medics, responsible for far more carbon and eco-destruction, are already hugely expensive. (The US healthcare system accounts for fully 16 per cent of GDP; the somewhat more efficient - in terms of results for money - British NHS still costs a crippling £100bn+ annually.) As Chung hints, any move to make the health sector act as responsibly as airlines or IT would probably render it unsupportably pricey.

So it might be, despite today's revelations, that green activism will continue to focus on comparatively insignificant emitters and leave the healthcare sector alone.

Chung and Meltzer's research is published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.