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Thanks To Al Gore, Climate Change Summit Is Back On Track

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has abruptly canceled the climate change summit it has been planning for months. But no need to fret, as former vice president Al Gore has stepped in to host his own conference in Atlanta next month.

Last Thursday, Gore announced holding the Climate & Health Meeting in the state on Feb. 16 along with Howard Frumkin, former National Center for Environmental Health director, as well as health and climate groups such as the American Public Health Association, Harvard Global Health Institute, The Climate Reality Project, and the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment.

Make It Happen

“[Al] called me and we talked about it and we said, ‘There’s still a void and still a need,’” recalled APHA’s executive director Georges Benjamin in a Washington Post report. “We said, Let’s make this thing happen.”

The news came days after the CDC canceled its summit in the lead-up to the recent change in administrations in the White House. The decision was not explained in emails given to participants as well as invited speakers, the agency saying, when sought for comment, that the event might be held later this year.

In a statement announcing the meeting, Gore said the conference will go forward anyway.

“Today we face a challenging political climate, but climate shouldn’t be a political issue,” Gore asserted, citing the urgent need for health professionals for “the very best science” to protect the public. He also mentioned current warming and how it worsens the spread of public health threats such as the Zika virus.

The one-day Feb. 16 meeting will not involve government circles, and will be conducted at the nonprofit Carter Center rather than at CDC. Organizers are eyeing as many as 200 participants from around the United States. It also remains unclear whether previously involved CDC employees will attend.

Climate Change And Public Health

Studies continue to warn the major public health risks of climate change around the world, with experts implicating warming in millions of deaths from heat, disease outbreak, longer allergy seasons, and more extreme weather events.

Research published in the journal Lancet in 2016 argued that failing to address climate change could “undermine the last half century of gains” made in global health and development.

But Frumkin is no longer surprised by how political climate change could get. He pointed out the external political pressure faced by the CDC, and sometimes its self-censorship and decision to shy away from specific issues.

“Climate change has been that issue historically,” the expert told E&E News.

The Huffington Post cited federal agency sources saying that the Trump administration’s efforts to limit access to climate change information from government have already begun. EPA sources, for instance, said they have been told to stop disseminating press releases and social media announcements, with the possibility of their climate change webpage coming down.

The new summit vows to “preserve the focus of the CDC conference” and offer a platform for professionals and the community to discuss and provide solutions to climate change-related health problems.

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