As heat waves kill thousands, Biden’s office for climate health risks is broke
Somerset, Mass. – p killer heat waves The Biden administration is warning around the world that its office to deal with the health effects of climate change does not have the money.
President Joe Biden, in his first year in office, created an Office of Climate Change and Health Justice within the Department of Health and Human Services, to prepare the nation’s health care system to deal with the growing and inevitable health effects of extreme heat and dangerous storms. Air pollution is exacerbated. The Biden administration has asked Congress for $3 million to staff the office with eight employees, a pittance compared to the multi-trillion-dollar federal government budget.
But Congress has never funded the office, leaving the fledgling unit with an uncertain future, lacking dedicated resources and dependent on a rotating staff on loan from other government offices, even as harsh summer temperatures illustrate the risks to human health: nearly 2,000 have already been killed. In this heat wave Spain and Portugal.
“Our hospitals are, for the most part, not quite ready,” Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, a physician, said in an interview with NBC News. “The health threats associated with climate change are very serious, and they are increasing.”
The office empty bank account is the latest example of how to do this Biden vows to use all his executive power To act on climate if the Senate doesn’t, his hands are largely tied.
Last week, sweeping climate legislation collapsed in the Senate after Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va. – main vote – He said he wouldn’t support her Unless the data in the coming months shows that inflation is improving. The collapse of that effort, which has already been scaled back several times, was the latest potentially fatal blow to Biden’s climate-reducing agenda.
On Wednesday, Biden sought to show he is taking action on his own where possible, visiting a former coal plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, which has been converted into an industrial facility for the offshore wind power industry. He announced $2.3 billion in funding through FEMA to help communities prepare for extreme heat and plans to allow the first US offshore wind turbines into the Gulf of Mexico.
“This crisis affects every aspect of everyday life,” Biden said, as temperatures soared in the waterside city in the 1990s. He described climate change as an “emergency” and added: “It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger. The health of our citizens in our communities is virtually at risk.”
A spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee said House Democrats supported the administration’s request for $3 million for the Office of Climate Health, including funding in a budget proposal for fiscal year 2023 that a key committee approved.
However, it is unclear whether the funding will continue in the Senate. Congress may also choose to temporarily fund the government by passing a short-term extension of the previous budget, which could leave the Climate Office without funding again.
Levin said the office, with its limited resources and borrowed staff, is working with federal agencies that provide medical services — such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Army and the Indian Health Service — to improve resilience to climate change. The office is also pushing hospitals and drug companies to decarbonise, requiring them to commit to cutting emissions by 50 percent by the end of the decade, in line with Biden’s economy-wide goals.
Dr. Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician who directs the Climate Health Program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, compared the lack of a coordinated approach to climate with the failure that led the federal government to create the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11. 11 terrorist attacks.
“We realized in a very painful way how our piecemeal approach to protecting our national security made it possible for people to fly planes to the Twin Towers and the Pentagon,” Bernstein said, calling for the same level of urgency in responding to climate change. “We don’t have such a response from our federal government at this time.”
Environmental Protection Agency estimates That about 1,300 people die each year in the United States from heat-related deaths, with hundreds dying from hail, severe storms, and other climate-related events. Bernstein said a coordinated government response could include steps such as working with the Centers for Health and Medicaid services to provide incentives for local health systems and frontline clinics to proactively reach patients before extreme heat events, to ensure they have plans to stay safe. Bernstein said the bureau could also work with the National Weather Service, which is based at the Department of Commerce, to issue heat-related warnings, similar to hurricane warnings.
In recent weeks, Levine has traveled across the country to meet with mayors and local officials about their efforts to make their communities more resilient to extreme temperatures and climate change, and to minimize negative health impacts.
In Orlando, she was told about immigrant farm workers unable to escape the outdoor heat, and in Seattle, about low-income families who couldn’t afford air conditioning. In the South Bronx, New York, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, I’ve heard of urban heat islands with above-average temperatures due to fewer trees and shade.
In San Jose, California, Mayor Sam Licardo said his city is getting “drier and hotter,” fueling new medical problems as wildfires exacerbate respiratory problems. He said wildfires and extreme heat have also caused frequent power outages in California in recent years, putting medically vulnerable people at risk.
“We have a lot of medically vulnerable populations that depend on electricity for respirators, dialysis, and other types of critical devices just to keep them alive,” Licardo said.
The same communities that have been disproportionately affected by pollution and disparities in access to health services are also most at risk from the health effects of climate change: people of color, American Indians, the elderly, and immigrants, Levine said.
“Local officials are coming forward and trying to address this, but we need a national approach,” she said. “They all have the same messages: the challenge and threats to health from the extreme heat.”