Background: Climate change is a global public health problem that will require complex thinking if meaningful and effective solutions are to be achieved. In this conceptual paper we argue that GPs have much to bring to the issue of climate change from their wide-ranging clinical experience and from the principles underpinning their clinical methods. This experience and thinking calls forth particular contributions GPs can and should make to debate and action.
Discussion: We contend that the privileged experience and GP way of thinking can make valuable contributions when applied to climate change solutions. These include a lifetime of experience, reflection and epistemological application to first doing no harm, managing uncertainty, the ability to make necessary decisions while possessing incomplete information, an appreciation of complex adaptive systems, maintenance of homeostasis, vigilance for unintended consequences, and an appreciation of the importance of transdisciplinarity and interprofessionalism.
Summary: General practitioners have a long history of public health advocacy and in the case of climate change may bring a way of approaching complex human problems that could be applied to the dilemmas of climate change.