Obama seeks to link climate change to health

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The Obama administration is launching a series of efforts aimed at confronting what it says are the negative health effects of climate change.

A warming climate, caused by humans through greenhouse gases, can exacerbate asthma, lengthen allergy seasons and increase the risk of injuries from extreme weather, the administration said Tuesday.

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Children, the elderly, minorities, the sick and the poor are especially at risk, officials say.

“The sooner we act, the more we can do to protect the health of our communities, our kids, and those that are the most vulnerable,” the White House said Tuesday in a fact sheet.

Brian Deese, a top adviser to Obama, said the initiative is meant to show some of the more immediate impacts of climate change.

“The president has been consistently focused on the fact that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” Deese told reporters Tuesday.

“But this is not just a future threat,” he said. “This is a present threat, and I think what the data and what the evidence shows that we’re highlighting today is that climate change is posing a threat to more people in more places to their basic health.”

Obama will speak about the nexus between climate and health later Tuesday in a roundtable with health professionals at Howard University in Washington.

He will bring Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

The initiative provides more justification for President Obama’s sweeping policies to cut greenhouse gas pollution, like limits on emissions from power plants and cars.

The first event under the initiative will come this week, when the White House gathers health and medical experts for a workshop on climate change's link to health. Later this spring, the White House will host a summit on the issue with Murthy.

Other pieces of the effort will include a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what some cities have done to reduce health risks from climate change. It will also release new data to help scientists and communities understand the link and a separate report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program to synthesize various studies on health and climate.

Private companies are pledging to build tools with that data, and deans from 30 health and medical schools say they’re incorporating climate change into their curricula.

Obama is also tying the effort to this week’s celebration of National Public Health Week.

--This report was updated at 11:33 a.m.