THE 1993 film Alive tells the true story of a group of Uruguayan rugby players who were stranded in the Andes after a plane crash. Every lunchtime, the survivors turn on the radio to hear how the search for them is going. About 2 weeks after the crash, they hear that the search has been called and that they are believed to be dead.

One of the men jumps up and starts dancing around. His teammate says: “Why are you so happy – didn’t you hear? You canceled the search. “

“Yes,” says the happy man. “Now we’re getting out of here alone.”

A week before the start of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Professor Hugh Montgomery, Critical Care Physician, Director of the Center for Human Health and Performance at University College London and longtime climate activist believes that humanity is now at the point where we are “alone come out ”.

“COP has never provided the answers,” Professor Montgomery told InSight + in an exclusive podcast. “And this time it won’t.”

“There will be a deal, but with the speed and level of risk required, it won’t bring anything material. What then leaves you with a question? Well, who will be in charge? “

New data were released in the run-up to COP26, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report and the most recent MJA Lancet Countdown Report. The picture is not pretty.

“We run out of time now,” says Professor Montgomery.

“Global warming is radiation gain. We are currently generating five Hiroshima bombs per second of energy. And the problem is, we’ve now gone through some positive feedback loops.

“The bush fires that you had in Australia in 2019-2020 – these fires alone released three quarters of a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. All of this in turn leads to more radiation gain. Carbonate rocks release methane, which causes global warming, melting tundra releases methane, further global warming.

“The Amazon basin is now a net emitter because it is so dry. When lightning strikes, it catches fire.

“We are now in a situation where, as the IPCC report says, things are likely to get worse for millennia, even if we stop emitting carbon dioxide. It’s running away now. And we have to step on the brakes. “

So if it’s too late why bother?

“That’s the only sensible and logical thing, isn’t it?” Says Professor Montgomery.

“If the boat goes down, if you decide that you will surely die, you will surely die. The only logical approach is to fight for survival.

“And there is a chance – if the world works together aggressively and quickly now, we can save some of it.

“But we don’t have time to talk about ‘net zero by 2050’. It’s just nonsense. “

In the UK, according to Professor Montgomery, health professionals have now embraced the concept of taking responsibility for the health system’s carbon footprint and improving sustainability in their own circles.

“It was only eleven years ago that it was first mentioned that climate change would affect human health,” he says.

“Now I would say it is widely accepted by health professionals in the UK. They are very, very much more committed. The feeling, especially the younger generations who are coming through now, is… I have a global responsibility for my health. I’m not just interested in chemotherapy or the antipsychotics. I’m interested in how I can make the world a safe place, a just place where everyone can live. “

How can we save the planet if governments don’t take the risk of converting economies to more sustainable models?

“There are countries that depend on it or have built economies by cutting down trees, mining coal, digging up tar sands and drilling for oil,” says Professor Montomery.

“Look at Russia – its entire economy depends on gas and oil, the entire economy.

“Australia’s economy is heavily dependent on coal. I could understand why a politician could say that if we stop all of this now, the economy will come to a halt.

“But we have to do that now. We have to do that. Someone in Australia and these other countries needs to think quickly. How do we reinvent our economy because Australia will become uninhabitable in the next few decades. “

Where’s the hope if politicians aren’t brave enough to act?

“Here in the UK of course, but in many other places too, people say enough that we don’t stand for it anymore. We will change, ”says Professor Montgomery.

“There are companies that really get to the core and advocate action against climate change. This is not a window dressing. It’s not a bit of greenwash. There are some companies that really want to act. “

Like the survivors of the plane crash in Uruguay, it is time to do it yourself, he says.

“That is the challenge for us and this is the opportunity.

“How often have people had the chance to save their biosphere? And their species? It’s a big ticket question. But if we change our behavior, the way we travel, the way we eat, the way we spend, and make it clear to our politicians how we vote, then we can do it.

“When we talk to our politicians, try to reflect on their point of view. Don’t bring them problems, bring them solutions.

“Let’s invest this way. Let’s grow a business this way. Let’s do the following things that make all the difference. Find the companies that are doing the right things and work with them. “

The UK healthcare sector is doing its part.

“We spend a lot,” says Professor Montgomery.

“In the UK it is now written into contracts. Any National Health Service contract worth £ 5 million must have decarbonization built into the contract. As a supplier, you have to say that I’m X percent minus, which will eventually be zero.

“And that bar will slowly go down from £ 5 million on every contract.

“Every contract will soon ask two questions: Does it work? and number two, is it carbon free? No? Okay, then we can’t buy it from you. “

COVID-19 has impacted the climate change debate, says Professor Montgomery.

“COVID has shown us that we are now living in the age of consequences. We were reminded that what we do or not do is important. They can be fatal.

“We are now in this situation with climate change. It is no longer an existential threat. We no longer have to think about it for our grandchildren. This is about us in the next few decades.

“That’s us, and when we have young children, it’s all about them.

“We have a responsibility to act. In the healthcare sector, we are good communicators, we have a huge budget and the healthcare sector can act together worldwide.

“When people wonder what I can do in my personal life, the answer is very simple.

“Go online and find a good CO2 calculator. It takes half an hour to fill it out, figuring out which parts of your life are the high carbon things, and making those quick and easy to get started.

“You will feel really good. Then think about how you will do the rest and bring people with you. “