Obama links climate and health

Thursday, April 9, 2015

President Obama has issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring this week, April 6-12, 2015, as National Public Health Week.  Climate change, and its impacts on human and environmental health, figure prominently in his proclamation.

The Obama administration has focused on climate change since taking office in 2009.  In 2013, President Obama released his administration's Climate Action Plan, calling for reductions in U.S. emissions of carbon and greenhouse gases, adoption of mitigation and adaptation measures, and global action.  He has also addressed climate change in his State of the Union speeches to Congress, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued its proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce the carbon intensity of the nation's electric power sector.

While interest in addressing climate change arises from a broad range of factors, health plays an important role in the Obama administration's action on climate issues.  In this week's Presidential Proclamation on health, President Obama noted the interdependence of climate, environment, and human health:
America's public health is deeply tied to the health of our environment. As our planet becomes more interconnected and our climate continues to warm, we face new threats to our safety and well-being. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting these individuals and many other vulnerable populations at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries and illnesses.

My Administration is dedicated to combating the health impacts of climate change. As part of my Climate Action Plan, we have proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for existing power plants -- standards that would help Americans live longer, healthier lives. And as we continue to ensure the resilience of our health care system, we are working to prepare our health care facilities to handle the effects of a changing planet. Climate change is no longer a distant threat. Its effects are felt today, and its costs can be measured in human lives. Every person, every community, and every nation has a duty to protect the health of all our children and grandchildren, and my Administration is committed to leading this effort.
This week the Obama administration announced further actions to protect communities against the impacts of climate change.  These actions include convening stakeholders to prepare for a White House Climate Change and Health Summit later this spring that will feature the Surgeon General, and an Adaptation in Action Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Obama administration also announced an expansion of its Climate Data Initiative to include more than 150 health-relevant datasets on climate.data.gov.  President Obama unveiled the Climate Data Initiative in 2014 to host data related to climate change that can help inform and prepare businesses and citizens for the impacts of extreme weather.  The newly released datasets are designed to help the public answer questions, including:
  • In what ways does the changing climate affect public health where I live?
  • What risk factors make individuals or communities more vulnerable to climate-related health effects?
  • How can public health agencies, communities, and individuals plan for uncertain future conditions?

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