Did you hear this? The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the nation’s lead government agency for protecting the public’s health, has “postponed” a major meeting of scientists it had called to investigate the effects of climate change on health.
The Atlanta meeting had been scheduled for next month and reflected the CDC’s concern that global warming is likely to pose major risks to huge swaths of the Earth’s population. On their own website, the CDC specifically points out that “Human activities are mainly responsible for the drastic warming we’ve seen in recent decades,” and they define the following places as being at particular health risk from such threats as rising sea levels, melting glaciers, extreme heat, and changing precipitation patterns, including drought:
- Poor communities
- Small islands and coastal regions
- Developing countries
- Mountain regions
- Polar regions
Well, that’s pretty much half the planet, isn’t it?
The CDC long has studied the impact on health by such weather events. For instance, vector-borne diseases, like Lyme disease and West Nile Virus, may be accelerated by climate change, and air quality may be lowered, due to increased wildfires and ozone. Given the CDC’s mission, which includes identifying preventable health problems and conducting research on disease prevention, the Climate Change and Health Summit—which was attracting scientists from around the world—fell right into the agency’s bailiwick.
And now this postponement. It has caused consternation around the world, as scientists—most of whom already made plans to attend—are forced to scramble and wonder what caused the CDC to change its mind. The agency didn’t explain its reasons, but here’s a hint. “Global warming…is a con,” Trump told Fox News. And on twitter, he said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Again, on twitter: “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”
Who runs the CDC? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Whom did Trump just nominate to be Secretary of HHS? Georgia Republican congressman Tom Price. What do we know about his views on climate change? He called the science of global warming “allegedly settled” rather than established, as most climate scientists believe it is. He has consistently voted against Democratic measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions. He’s an artful dodger who knows how to avoid answering a question that makes him uncomfortable. Last week, during Senate confirmation hearings, he insisted that “from a scientific standpoint,” the effect of human behavior on climate change “needs to be studied and evaluated.” Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Except that most scientists—including those at the CDC—have concluded that the time for “study and evaluation” is over, and it’s time for action. When a Republican says he’s in favor of “study and evaluation” about climate change, what he means is: “Let’s just kick this can down the road forever.” (This stalling, based on ideological beliefs rather than science, is disturbingly reminiscent of the CDC’s behavior in the early and mid-1980s, when it was appallingly lax in responding to the AIDS epidemic while the anti-gay Reagan was President.)
One cannot escape the inevitable conclusion that the CDC’s top brass decided to “postpone” the climate change conference because they didn’t want to piss off their new bosses. They knew that Trump probably would have cancelled the conference anyway. Yes, readers, this is the point that’s been reached: Trump, who is a tool of the anti-science Biblical crowd if not a true believer himself, now has cast such a climate of fear onto scientific research that the CDC is censoring itself. What cowards.
You recall that CDC quote I cited earlier? “Human activities are mainly responsible for the drastic warming we’ve seen in recent decades.” How much longer do you think it will remain on their website after Secretary Price takes over? Tick tick…