The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly and quietly canceled a scientific conference on climate change and health, according to . The conference was originally scheduled for February.
The conference had been in the works for months, and it was intended to bring experts and stakeholders together to discuss the latest evidence of and solutions to health risks posed by climate change. But according to E&E, the CDC suddenly canceled the summit shortly after Donald Trump’s election. The agency notified speakers and participants in a terse email, which gave no explanation. The email noted that the summit may be rescheduled for later in the year.
Former CDC officials and conference speakers were quick to draw political connections. They noted that President Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and has vowed to dismantle “harmful and unnecessary” climate change policies.
The former officials also pointed out that the CDC has a history of avoiding politicized issues, such as gun violence research and reproductive health.
A formerly scheduled speaker for the conference, Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, told the Washington Post in an email that he feared the agency was self-censoring out of fear that the new Administration would cut their funding or retaliate. Maibach said the agency should instead hold firm on the side of established science and not create a precedent of bowing to political pressure.
I don’t know why they canceled the meeting, but I do know the meeting was important and should have been held. Politics is politics, but protecting the health of our citizens is one of our government’s most important obligations to us… Climate change is bad for America, and bad for the world, in so many ways. One of these ways is that it is harming our health, already, and is likely to get much worse over the next few decades unless we take action. As the nation’s public health agency, we need CDC to be fully engaged in protecting our health from climate change.
A more than 300-page government report from last year highlighted ways in which climate change poses a significant threat to the health of the American people. These include: boosting extreme weather events, such as heat waves, that could kill millions; increased spread of infectious disease by vectors, such as ticks and mosquitoes; degrading air quality; and adding stressors of our mental health and-well being.
Update: In an interview with the AP, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, which was co-sponsoring the conference, called the cancellation a “strategic retreat.” The organizers were not told by the administration to cancel the conference. They did so on their own with the intention of heading-off a possible last-minute cancellation or other repercussions from the administration, which may not approve of spending resources on climate change science. “They decided the better part of valor was to stop and regroup” until the new leadership could weigh-in,” Dr. Benjamin said.