J. M. Slingo, M. E. Slingo

The science of climate change and the effect of anaesthetic gas emissions

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

SummaryThe dedication of the international anaesthetic community to reducing the environmental impact of healthcare is important and to be celebrated. When this is underpinned by robust science, it has the potential to make a real difference. However, volatile anaesthetic agents have been widely promoted in the medical literature as damaging to the climate, leading to a drive to remove them from clinical practice. This is based on notional ‘CO2‐equivalent’ values created using the simple emission metric known as the global warming potential. Here, we assert that when proper consideration is given to the science of climate change, volatile anaesthetic gas emissions cannot be simply equated to real carbon dioxide emissions, and that their climate impact is vanishingly small. This paper gives anaesthetists a framework to make informed choices founded on climate science and calls for attention to be refocused on the urgent need to reduce the real carbon dioxide emissions associated with healthcare.

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