Campaigning GP from Margate using public protest to kickstart climate change conversation

Climate change activist Dr Chris Newman (Photo Doctors for XR)

A GP from Margate is among seven health professionals who have been acquitted at City of London magistrates’ court  following a climate change protest.

Dr Chris Newman is the founder of campaign group Doctors for XR with the aim of bringing the climate change issue into the public eye.

The 41-year-old says he wants to open up the conversation and believes “public messaging on climate change is vital for us to avert the catastrophic harms that are looming.”

The Doctors for XR group – comprised of Dr David McKelvey, Dr Chris Newman, Dr Mark Russell and Dr Patrick Hart – all GPs – Dr Alice Clack, a hospital consultant obstetrician, Dr Rosie Jones, a clinical psychologist and Anna Bunten, a specialist nurse – faced a charge of ‘breach of section 14’ of the public order act.

They had been part of a group of approximately 20 health professionals who blocked Lambeth bridge in April, displaying a banner saying ‘For Health’s Sake. Stop Financing Fossil Fuels.’ The action was to highlight the estimated £10 billion in annual  financial support the government gives to the fossil fuel industry.

Acquitted Photo Helena Smith

The action resulted in the seven being arrested. Section 14 is a police power that allows them to set conditions on a “public assembly”, if they believe it may cause a serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community.

The court didn’t agree with the charge and the seven were acquitted at a hearing earlier this week.

Dr Newman, who moved from London to Margate 18 months ago, initially started a podcast about plastic pollution in 2018 but was then persuaded to look at wider climate change.

He said: “Then all the XR stuff kicked off in London and the fact these people were willing to do this confrontational protest and potentially sacrifice their freedom made me look into it more.

“I was one of those trusting the government to fix it but realised it wasn’t happening and was just a can being kicked down the road.”

Dr Newman, who does not have a car and no longer uses air flights, says it was this that inspired him to create Doctors for XR and et health professionals on board to ‘legitimise’ the cause.

The group has around 1,000 members, a few hundred of which are actively involved in demonstrations.

Photo Helena Smith

He said: “We need serious changes to society. People will obviously be sceptical. But the science is there from doctors and medical institutions like the BMA and RCN.”

The concern is that climate change alters the quality of the air we breathe, the water we have access to, and the food we can produce.

Rapidly changing environmental conditions also alter our exposures to infectious diseases and natural hazards such as heat waves, droughts, floods, fires, and tropical storms. Dr Newman and other health professionals say this ultimately affects our health and wellbeing, including nutritional outcomes, infectious disease, non-¬communicable disease, displacement and conflict, and mental health outcomes.

Photo Doctors for XR

Dr Newman likens the effects to a person with high blood pressure, the lack of symptoms mean this is a ‘silent killer,’ saying: “It is the reason a doctor will check your blood pressure and treat before the symptoms become obvious and stop you having a heart attack or a stroke.

“With climate change the message is that the health impacts come from increasing intensity of natural disasters like floods and fires, not just changing heat but also rainfall and this is significant for where we grow our crops and that is likely to have to change many times.

“There will be changes to food growing, rising sea levels making coastal regions more difficult to live in putting pressure on middle regions. There will be changes to diseases and future pandemics.

“People with no option but to leave their homes and head to cities means there will be tensions and conflicts. Humans have never adapted to changing climate before.”

Dr Newman says he believes MPs and government should lead the message about climate change, or at least be actively involved, but says that isn’t happening.

As part of his efforts to get people talking Dr Newman has been sitting outside MP Craig Mackinlay’s Broadstairs office every Sunday with a sign, thermos and chairs inviting people to talk to him and share their views on climate change.

He said: ”I started sitting in front of Craig Mackinlay’s office with the sign because I believe public messaging on climate change is vital for us to avert the catastrophic harms that are looming.  During covid there were signs everywhere – at the bus stop, at the GP surgery, in the street – we need that for climate, to get everyone on board, and help inspire our collective wisdom to fix the problem.

“However that isn’t happening. The only engagement most people have with this issue are news reports/articles. And the people making the stories are climate activists. Without them it would barely be in the press. There would be a lot less interest, and a lot less action – from government, corporations and civil society.

“I want to support these activists but also start a local messaging campaign. I believe there is something about being on my own that makes me less threatening than a group.

“I also want to talk with people in Thanet about climate change, as an antidote to media outlets which often polarise. To have the debate. And if people don’t like activists, which most don’t, to gently challenge them on that.

“I thought the best thing to do was just start, sit with a sign, a thermos, teabags and cups and invite people to come and talk. And given how behind on the climate science Craig Mackinlay MP seems to be, his office  in Broadstairs seemed the best place to start. It’s not a busy street but the location is symbolic.”

Dr Newman hopes other health professionals around the country will follow his lead, and his #Sundaysforscience hashtag, and get people in their areas talking about climate change.

In a typically medical analogy about the need for action, he says: “Protest is like attempting to shock a failing heart, in the hope it will change its rhythm.”

70 Comments

  1. It’s quite unusual to see the Press give such prominence to this most important of issues. Well done, the IoTN.
    COP 27 is over-running because Nations are squabbling about how much the rich, polluting nations should pay to the poorer nations disappearing under the Pacific Ocean.
    Outside the scientific community, just about no-one, other than a handful of activists branded as trouble makers, or silly, is actually taking any notice of the fact that we are heading for disaster.
    CO2 emissions, far from decreasing, are still going up, as is the Earth’s global temperature.
    We still jump in our cars rather than use the bus or train. We still fly abroad in our hundreds of thousands. We are reluctant to embrace alternative technologies (even where they exist) to heat and power our homes.
    The science is unequivocal. Climate change us happening; it is anthropogenic; if we don’t radically change our lifestyles now, then the extreme weather that we’ve increasingly experiencing in recent years will get worse and worse.
    Talk about fiddling whilst Rome burns.

    • Indeed. Tell King Charles who flies everywhere on private jets & choppers, his other virtue signalling family members who do the same & good old Eco legend Harry & Meghan who live in a 16 bathroom mansion in California & also still fly everywhere.

      Does Dr Newman walk or cycle to work, or does he drive-if so is it electric, or good old gas? Does he jet off to other countries for holidays? Perhaps he should declare just how green he actually is, as other vocal members of these various groups drive diesel vehicles & jet off all the time?

      Does Dr Newman or any of these people have any actual plan to stop climate change? Nearly half of which is produced by the US, China & Russia alone, or is he just going to sit in the road & outside the local MP’s office making virtue signalling social media videos railing against the UK who have reduced emissions & are responsible for around just 1% of the pollution? If not then perhaps he & the other GP’s could get back to seeing patients which they are paid to do & haven’t since early 2020 & actually saving preventable deaths.

    • What’s the point in arguing over how much to give to poorer Countries. That is not going to help the climate. The COP27 was a waste of time as nothing good has come out of it. Big businesses will continue to destroy the planet and Governments will continue to change over while doing nothing. Greed will kill the planet and all on it.

  2. I am totally fed up with these twats. You want a conversation, first stop picking on the motorist. People have died because the ambulance couldn’t get thought as you lot have super glued yourself to the road. Lots of people have missed events, meetings and appointments. Now you throw soup at art.

    Your gripe is with the government so why are you picking on ordinary folk ? All you are doing is turning people against you.

    By all means protest out Mackinlay office after all he supports a dirty cargo hub at manston. Run by a struck off solicitor and MP is a director of airline company. You couldnt make it up lol.

      • People have died, too, because of global warming and its consequences.
        And many, many more will do so if we don’t collectively and individually do something.

        • They have also died because of mold in houses, becasue GP’s refuse to see them & diagnose cancer, mental health problems, high blood pressure etc, because people have to wait years for treatments & operations in pain-even recently cancer treatments & procedures were cancelled for the Queen’s funeral-how about sorting out an actual crisis killing people now we can do something about, rather than something that is totally out of the UK’s (who produce only 1% of the pollution) hands?

      • So you think it’s ok to put innocent people to so much trouble

        If I was running late for an event that I had paid hundreds quid for I would be the one pulling you of the road.
        I cant believed the police allowed the dartford crossing to be closed for two days because of these people.

        The motorist is doing nothing illegal your fight is with the government not law abiding people going about the normal day.

    • They don’t want a conversation, they just make impossible demands & run around doing stupid stunts & ruining people’s lives. Even saw footage recently of a cop asking them if they would let an ambulance on a blue lighter through recently, but made clear it was their decision.

      All this when the UK is 1% of the pollution in the world-how is this supposed to have any effect on the big three who create 40% of it, or the other big polluters? Mr Newman is more interested in carbon neutral hospitals than the people waiting days for ambulances that then have to sit in the car park with the people onboard dying, or 24 hours waits in A&E, or that people haven’t been able to see GP’s(his job) for nearly 3 years etc.

  3. Well done for highlighting the serious issue. It goes hand in hand with all problems such as the detritus we are expected to swim in & eat seafood from, the crisis of health inequalities, NHS privatisation etc. Sadly Thanet has a huge population of people who are complicit & not willing to engage in behaviours to improve the world they live in.

  4. If the people are so keen on saving the planet why do they grid lock the country every single school day ?

    Millions of kids are taken to school in cars, why ? We use to cycle or walk rain, snow, sun.

  5. Amazing they are happy to let people die by refusing to see patients for years now while getting full pay-even after they have jabbed most of them for extra money(not dangerous then apparently) but are out there stopping people getting to hospital-including ambulances with seriously ill patients & making the environment worse as all the people sitting there with their engines running. Start seeing patients again, help them & get these horrendous waiting lists down, or choose to be a full time eco warrior.

    Quite why Britain is the target is hard to understand-seeing as we have done a lot to improve things & the US, China & Russia are responsible with around 40% of emissions-how does he plan to solve that & why doesn’t he have the balls to go there & protest? That’s right-because unlike our police who give them cups of tea & let them know their rights, they give them a good kicking.

    Are these people(usually upper class/very wealthy/spoiled brats) that narcissistic that they honestly believe these childish protests are actually going to change anything by their juvenile blocking of roads, pouring milk over the floor in supermarkets, spraying buildings etc? These terrorist tactics of trying to hold the country to ransom just get people’s back up & you are of no significance to the UK government or any other.

      • Phyllis

        You arent seriously suggesting the Suffragettes are in the same brackets as these numptys ?

        The Suffragettes where fighting events and government from the uk and rightly so. They were not fighting what China, USA Russia etc were doing.

        I agree on reducing the use of fossil fuels, and I believe the uk are doing more than most other big countries.

        But if these people think I am going to stop living you can forget it. I have one live and I am going to live it.
        It’s more or less impossible for working class people to go green. I do 600 mile round trip twice a month to follow gods own team. I can do it easily in a day by car, not a chance on public transport.

        There are 3 trains to the village I live again impossible to use them for work.

        Oil is nearly in or used in every thing we use.

        I do my bit in reducing my carbon footprint, car share etc, recycling we have very little food or general waste.

      • Difference is it gave women rights in the UK when they had next to none. This is demonstrating in/about a country that has taken steps over decades to reduce its footprint, is continuing to do so & now sits at just 1% of the pollution in the world-how exactly is this going to stop climate change-when just three countries produce nearly half of it? H

        How are Dr Newman & his pals going to stop Putin, whatever despot is in charge of China & the US? Because that is what is needed.

  6. iirc our goverment is already well involved with reducing climate change etc, they had a plan But mad Pukin began throwing cruise missles out of his soiled pram.
    Everything has now changed, the lackluster protesters need to understand why.
    Think our gov has accepted due to the current unstable Pukin situation climate change will need to take to the slow lane like other countries We all have to understand that.
    Why not protest in Pukin’s backyard or china Not uk throughfares were people are trying their best to make a few quid by going to work,make medicial visits etc, see ill friends and relatives.
    Our gov has readied four~ coal power stations with stockpiled steam coal sourced from usa, australia and other long distance sea routes.
    Great as we have so many noddy electric vehicles on our roads and the internet needs to be kept up and running cos our gov says ‘only do it online’

    Soz, you lot of dr’s have loads of degrees and ologys but seem to have your own idea.

    Please do what you are good, its either that or the other.

  7. When not protesting, which GP practice does he claim to represent and have his patients been told of his irresponsible activities. Should I win the lottery and get a GP appointment it certainly wouldn’t be with him. I want a sane, caring doctor not an over educated idiot!

    • His Twitter makes it clear that he is more interested in making hospitals 100% carbon neutral & for hospital staff to get ‘climate training’ than people being able to see GP’s & get diagnosed/treatment for cancers & other health issues.

      Or having to wait days for ambulances to turn up & then sit in the A&E car park while the paramedics watch them die slowly. Maybe it might be more understandable in the US or China, but not where only 1% of the world pollution occurs.

  8. I know – let’s shoot the messenger and ignore the message. And just to be sure let’s actually believe what the government and their supporting media tell us as that’s bound to be truthful, after all they have no oil companies lobbying them have they? 🙄

  9. I wonder if the good doctor kept quiet about the dangerous and utterly ineffective covid jabs (latest study from experts at Harvard, John Hopkins and others published in the Social Science Research Network illustrating this). And the serious health implications for millions across the world. Or the fact that records of previous cycles indicate a global cooling is coming (data from Conference on Climate Change in Chicago just one example). This is far more harmful than global warming.

    • Covid vaccines have nothing to do with climate change.
      There might well be a period of global cooling on its way The Milankovich cycles drive changes to our climate, but over a timescale of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years.
      What’s currently happening is a huge rise in CO2 and global temperature in the space of 200 years or so.

  10. As a gp if he really wanted to make peoples lives better , he’d be better off walking the streets withva set of scales and a tape measure, giving dietary and exercise advice to those on the large side. Of course 99% of them will “offended” and ignore him anyway, so if he wants them to live longer he’d be better off camapigning for the end of net zero and hs2 and for the money saved to be diverted into the nhs’s ever gaping maw to keep all the jolly fat people going for as long as possible.

  11. Rubbishing this chap’s reputation doesn’t actually alter the fact that we have catastrophic climate change to contend with.
    Criticism of Galileo didn’t alter the fact that the Earth was not at the centre of the Universe.

    • Well be reassured that everything we do is a total waste of time when the big polluters will not play ball. At COP we & other countries decried the usual offenders attempts to renege on what they signed up to last year & made no headway on reducing emissions.

      All they got was a vague deal about reparations to the small countries due to the actions of the offenders, who of course are going to carry on doing it anyway, so it still affects them. 30 years of these things & what a waste of time they are & think of all the C02 used flying to them & back.

  12. So let down with them highly trained medical professionals, they dont speak for me and i would refuse any treatment from them. I would choose to pass away but dont tell my missus.
    Blocking our roads and causing police to divert from proper emergency work with extra pressure on the uk court system,so wrong-

    So let down.

  13. Where did we get this idea that the UK is somehow doing much to reduce climate change?
    To be honest, I have noticed the clever trick in which British government spokespeople give speeches in which they appear to be lecturing other countries about doing more. And how disappointed they are that these other countries aren’t following Britain’s lead.
    But it’s a complete con. There are numerous policies that can be adopted right here and right now.
    For example, funding increased insulation for Britain’s woefully cold and damp houses. Wall and loft insulation, and double or triple glazing. Which would make us warmer and more comfortable and save energy.
    There’s no point in waiting for individual householders or landlords to do this work. It’s just too expensive for most households and landlords won’t want to spend the money.
    Yet we are prepared to build huge new power stations to heat poorly insulated houses. Just spend the same money on improving our homes. Think of the jobs created.
    What about all houses having solar panels, with the exception of houses in Conservation areas, of course.
    Or ALL new houses automatically having solar panels and, by law, required to have upgraded insulation standards?
    What about all new commercial buildings having to have solar panels? Just think of the energy that could be generated off the roof of a supermarket or warehouse.
    Why not cover carparks with solar panels? They would hardly spoil the view.
    Why plonk them in fields in the countryside when the demand is greatest in built-up cities, where we find thousands of roofs WITHOUT solar panels.
    The doctor is right to be frustrated. When the UK government does so little , even when the technology exists to break the strangle hold of fossil fuel companies. You would almost think that the oil and gas companies have some kind of influence over politicians and newspapers, so that they decline to take the simplest steps to reduce oil and gas use and then slander those people who genuinely want to improve things.

  14. You were going to give the name of a climate change denying scientist, and explain his reasoning.
    My apologies if I’ve missed it.

  15. So you did.
    Of the 10 mentioned, 3 are not scientists, and all the others accept, to a greater or lesser extent, the general premise of climate change.
    Even the most sceptical, Patrick Michael’s, said that ” .. he does not contest the basic scientific principles behind greenhouse warming and acknowledges that the global mean temperature has increased in recent decades”.

    Like to try again?

  16. What an idiot be better off getting back to his job, he might be able to do what hes paid for instead of folk having to tell a receptionist what is wrong with them and then wait to see if the doctor decides to ring them.

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