A conference on climate change and health is back on but apparently minus the U.S. government. Several organizers, including former vice president Al Gore, have resurrected the meeting set for next month in Atlanta. The government's top public health agency had planned the conference then canceled it in December without explanation.
The one-day meeting will be held on Feb. 16 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, according to press reports, and will be a scaled-down version of the three-day event that had been planned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gore will still be one of two keynote speakers, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said Thursday. "It's going to be on climate and health, and in many ways it's going to be a very different meeting," said Benjamin, the other keynote speaker.
"Climate change is here today and is already impacting our health," Benjamin added. Benjamin said he doesn't know if government officials will attend; many had been scheduled to speak at the conference. An after-hours message to the CDC was not immediately returned.
The decision to hold the meeting was hatched by Benjamin's group, Gore, the University of Washington and the Harvard Global Health Institute.
A recent report by the U.S. government said global warming is a national public health problem. It noted that climate change is increasing the risk of respiratory problems and spread of disease from insects. "Some of these health impacts are already underway in the United States," the report said.
In 2015, an international global health commission organized by the British medical journal Lancet said that hundreds of thousands of lives a year are at stake as global warming "threatens to undermine the last half-century of gains in development and global health."