Influence of Climate Change on the Practice of Surgery: The Scientific and Public Policy Implications

This is the first book in the world to be published on the topic of surgery and climate change. It is the aim of this book to present an up-to-date summary of the relevant climate science, information on the impact of climate change upon human health, and to situate the new research paradigm of surgery and climate change within this scientific framework.


“The innovative direction taken in this book is to consider how climate change in the 21st century will impact upon surgical practice… this book is the first in the world, as far as I am aware, to discuss the relationship between surgery and climate change. The argument is bold, but well-reasoned and evidence-based. It is an important contribution to the filed.”
-Professor Emeritus David Shearman,
Discipline of Medicine,
University of Adelaide

“Climate change is the ultimate risk-multiplier, and the risks that climate change presents for our own health are ultimately the most important risks for our long-term well-being. While the direct impacts of climate change on health via heat stress and infectious diseases are increasing well studied, other, less direct impacts could also be serious. This book, on the risks that climate change creates for surgery, fills an important gap, and broadens the discourse on the climate change-health relationship.”
-Professor Will Steffen,
Executive Director Australian National University,
Climate Change Institute

“This short book brings a surgical perspective to climate change. Like a good surgeon, it is direct, realistic, unflinching, and solutions-oriented. Usually, it considers both the effects of climate change on surgical practice, and the contributions of surgery to climate change, pointing the way toward both mitigation and adaptation. A fascinating contribution to the literature of climate and health.”
-Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H.,
Dean, School of Public Health,
University of Washington

“If you’ve ever wondered about climate change, its effects on surgery and conversely surgery’s effects on climate change then this well researched book written by an eminent Australian surgeon and lawyer is for you.”
-Dr. Forbes McGain,
Anesthetist and ICU Physician,
Western Health, Melbourne

“Joseph Smith’s team has once again delivered a timely, insightful and urgent call for a swift international response to the crises posed by climate change. This new text builds on the known human health impacts of climate change by documenting its reciprocal relationship with surgical practices: surgery has a significant climate footprint, and the changing climate will irrevocably alter surgery, particularly with respect to overwhelming increases in demand. Quite simply, humanity has no choice but to respond to Smith and Maddern’s call – either with a radical restructuring of its social and economic systems, or in resignation to its collective demise.”
-Professor Susan M. Koger,
Professor of Psychology
Willamette University

Table of Contents

Foreword / Preface/ Acknowledgments
CHAPTER 1: The Climate Change Crisis

Climate Consensus: Climate Crisis
The Pause
Cosmological Controversies
Why Climate Change is Likely to be Much Worse than the IPCC Predictions
Evidence for Future “Hyper-Catastrophic” Climate Change
Melting Ice
Melting Glaciers
The Methane “Bomb”
CHAPTER 2: Climate Change Impacts upon Surgery
Health and Injuries in a 4° C World: Fire, Water and Wind
Floods, Winds and Superstorms
Converging and Compounding Crises and the Collapse of Civilization
CHAPTER 3: Surgery Impacts Upon Climate Change
Introduction: Operating Theatres and Waste
Surgery, Anaesthetic Gases and Global Warming
The Carbon Footprint of Minimally Invasive Surgery
Conclusion; The Carbon Footprint of Surgery: What is to be Done?
Chapter 4: Conclusion