By Marshall Shepherd
A daylong summit on climate change and human health is taking place at the Carter Center in Atlanta, GA today. Originally set to be hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the summit was cancelled in the weeks leading up, with speculation citing new new federal leadership hostile to the overwhelming scientific evidence concerning climate change. In response, a consortium of stakeholders led by former Vice President Al Gore, and including the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment stepped forward to put it on.
Dr. Ashish Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, made a key point in his opening remarks, "health is the human face of climate change." This statement is critical because the public often sees climate change as an abstract, "far off" issue that has no direct bearing on them. Studies continue to show that the majority of the public, irrespective of political or other perspectives, has some level of concern about the climate change. However people too often associate it with polar bears, tree-hugging environmentalists, or scientists. They can't see the connections (and they are there) to their grocery bills, national security, or health. Public health provides an "its here and now" urgency for the average citizen. The range of experts convened for today's meeting highlights the various ways that climate change affects health.