Ethics, Climate Change and Public Health in an Age of Denialism

15 March 2017 -
1:00pm to 2:00pm
Studio 5, Environmental and Geographical Science Building, Upper Campus, UCT
Contact Person: 
Claire van Wyk
Contact Email: 

Session chaired by Prof Leslie London

In this seminar two professors, Dr Karim Ahmed and Dr Soskolne will each be speaking on issues to do with health, ethics and climate change when they are complicated by climate change denialism.

Speaker: Dr. Karim Ahmed (Ph.D. Physical Biochemistry)

Honorary Professor, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, RSA

Adjunct Professor, University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC), Farmington, USA

Director of International Program and Board Member at the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) in Washington, DC.

Bio: Dr. Karim Ahmed is an internationally recognized expert in the field of environmental health sciences, natural resource management and technology assessment. He has participated in a number of international fora on global climate change, water resource management, and public policy issues related to environmental planning, green technologies and sustainable development in different regions of the world. Currently, he is an Honorary Professor at University of Cape Town (UCT) School of Public Health and Family Medicine.

Abstract: Climate change has become one of the most important moral and existential challenges of our times. No longer simply viewed as an environmental, public health and economic issue, the ethical dimensions of climate change can now be clearly delineated – a handful of oil, gas and coal producing nations, regions and industries pitted against 97% of leading climate scientists around the globe. Generously supported by lobbyists of the fossil fuel industry, a small group of strident and disingenuous academics and think tank professionals have made it their life’s mission to deny and obfuscate the science of climate change. Recently, many of their palpable dishonesty and twisted scientific arguments have been amply demonstrated. Above all, it is crucial for policy makers and the general public to recognize the overarching trans-generational impacts and social inequities of not taking urgent steps to address global climate change.


Speaker: Dr Colin L. Soskolne (Ph.D. Epidemiology) 

Professor emeritus, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Adjunct Professor, Health Research Institute, University of Canberra, Australia

Bio: Colin L. Soskolne, born, raised and educated in Johannesburg, South Africa, obtained his PhD in epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. From 1985, he was based at the University of Alberta from which he retired as Professor emeritus in 2013. He currently holds an Adjunct Professorship in the Health Research Institute at the University of Canberra, Australia; he currently serves as immediate past-Chair of the International Joint Policy Committee of the Societies of Epidemiology ( Aside from career teaching and research focusing on occupational, environmental and global health, he initiated the integration of ethics into professional discourse in the mid-1980s (

Abstract: Global Environmental and Climate Changes: Some Implications of Climate Change for Public Health

Grave ecological and biosphere changes are underway. The trends continue to worsen rather than improve; prospects for the survival of life as we know it are bleak. Future predictions are premised, however, on a paradigm of continued business-as-usual. The morally reprehensible ever-widening disparities between rich and poor countries is emphasized with respect to their overall carbon emissions per capita (both present and cumulative) and the unequal environmental burden with which less developed economies are faced. Hope is provided by the many initiatives and movements that have arisen to influence determinants to mitigate deleterious pressures on ecological systems. Denialism and moneyed influence in maintaining the status quo remain the challenge. By understanding the ethical underpinnings behind the denial industry, we become better equipped to bring wisdom to bear in the formulation of public policy.