Tuesday, January 24, 2017

CDC abruptly cancels long-planned climate conference

Brady Dennis reports for The Washington Post:
With little warning or explanation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently canceled a major climate change conference that had been scheduled for next month in Atlanta.
The Climate and Health Summit, which had been in the works for months, was intended as a chance for public health officials around the country to learn more about the mounting evidence detailing the risks to human health posed by the changing climate. But CDC officials abruptly canceled the conference the week before President Donald Trump's inauguration, sending a terse email to those who had been scheduled to speak at the event. The message did not explain the reason behind the decision.
But one scheduled keynote speaker, Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said agency officials decided to pre-emptively call off the summit, rather than risk running afoul of an incoming president who has repeatedly called climate change a "hoax" and has nominated climate change skeptics to his Cabinet.
"They ran it up the flagpole and realized that it was so close to the inauguration, the chances of it being canceled were pretty real with the administration that was coming in," said Benjamin, whose organization was one of the promoters of the event. "Some might argue they should have said, 'We're going to do this and make them tell us no.' But that was the decision they made. We should think of this as a strategic retreat."
Another scheduled speaker, Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, argued that the summit should have gone forward, no matter who had just been sworn in as the next president. He said he fears the move will set a precedent of government officials self-silencing, in part over fears of reprisal or loss of funding, rather than standing behind the established science around climate change.
"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," Maibach said in an email. "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."
"Unfortunately, we are unable to hold the Summit in February 2017," CDC officials wrote, adding that the agency is "currently exploring" whether it could reschedule the event later in the year.
CDC officials contacted by The Washington Post have not commented about the cancellation, which was first reported by E&E News.
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