by Anne Polanksy
Senior Climate Policy Analyst
Climate Change has now created a public health emergency, according to the medical and public health community at large in an urgent call to action. “Climate change is one of the greatest threats to health America has ever faced—it is a true public health emergency,” a letter issued this week to policymakers warns. The American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics are among the 75 signatory organizations. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization declared climate change to be the greatest health challenge of the 21st century. Health professionals are deeply concerned that scores of people are getting sick and dying – from heat stroke, cardiovascular disease, asthma, respiratory allergies, malaria, encephalitis, dysentery, dehydration, malnutrition, and other life-threatening maladies – as the result of human-caused global warming and associated climate change impacts. “Extreme heat, powerful storms and floods, year-round wildfires, droughts, and other climate-related events have already caused thousands of deaths and displaced tens of thousands of people in the U.S. from their homes, with significant personal loss and mental health impacts especially for first responders and children,” the letter warns. In plain language, climate change makes us sick. It also kills.
This week alone, heat stroke has taken dozens of lives in the US and Europe as heat waves are breaking temperature records and inflicting extreme heat on vulnerable populations such as young children and the elderly. But instead of rising to meet the challenge, the Trump White House is sinking to new lows by crippling and killing the very government programs equipped to help. The climate program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been shut down and its director, Dr. George Luber, barred from working on anything related to climate and banned from his workplace, the CDC campus in Atlanta. Nearly terminated altogether, Dr. Luber still collects a federal paycheck but has been relegated to working from his home on tasks unrelated to his expertise in epidemiology. Now a federal whistleblower represented by counsel and afforded a host of legal protections, Dr. Luber is fighting to rescue the climate program he started and led for the last ten years and fighting to keep his job.