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Why was there a CDC climate change summit anyway?

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The Centers for Disease Control’s decision to indefinitely postpone a climate change meeting has some experts fearing the move is an early effect of shifting political winds.

The agency canceled its Climate and Health Summit, a conference scheduled for next monthE&E News reported Monday. The summit focused on the impacts of climate change on public health, which falls under the purview of the CDC.

Howard Frumkin, a former director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the CDC, said he is worried politics pushed CDC leadership to cancel its summit.

“This is basic bread-and-butter public health: anticipate the hazard, understand how the hazard operates and then protect people,” he said. “If we pull the plug on that, then people are at risk.”

In a written statement, the CDC said it is working on its “budget priorities.” The agency confirmed that it began notifying attendees about the postponement late last month.

“We are exploring options to reschedule the meeting while considering budget priorities for fiscal year 2017, including the current continuing resolution, and potential overlap with an APHA [American Public Health Association] conference on the same topic also being held later in 2017,” the agency wrote in its statement. The APHA has a climate change meeting scheduled for November.

With climate change, a lot of attention goes to structural concerns like the need to deal with rising sea levels. Regina Shih of the RAND Corporation said there are myriad health effects too.

“We’ve seen increases in Zika as well as other vector-borne diseases,” she said. Her list also included many issues that the CDC typically worries about: temperature-related death and illness, air quality impacts, water-related sickness and food security.

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