CDC's climate and health program started in 2009, though Luber laid the groundwork for it on his own beginning in 2005. Its work began with a focus on science but has expanded to helping state and local health officials integrate climate change into their other operations. It now funds programs in 16 states and two cities.
The program took off under the Obama administration, but Luber said it has more to do with the state of science than the state of politics. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report established that man-made global warming was happening, which required health scientists to take it seriously.
Luber dismissed the continued debate over climate science in the political sphere.
"The whole dialogue about climate deniers, that's irrelevant to me," he said. "I look at the science, and if somebody is a denier, they should look at the science, too."
Knowlton of NRDC, who worked with Luber and a team of contributing health scientists to write the chapter last year, said it was intended to educate the American public, including policymakers.
"The effort is intensely policy-relevant, but it can't be policy prescriptive," she said. While the assessment will help lawmakers have a clearer sense of the state of the science on climate and health, she said, it makes no policy recommendations.
But Knowlton was not shy about advocating for funding for climate and public health programs, which are expected to face tighter budgets in the coming years.
"The budget is at risk on this issue, at a time when both exposures and vulnerability is increasing," she said. "It benefits all of us to support that in the strongest possible way."
Some of these proposed reductions are coming from the White House itself. The president's budget for fiscal 2013 asked for only $4.8 million for CDC's climate change programs, down from $7.4 million the previous year. The budget is yet to be acted on by Congress.
HHS' climate-related programs are one example of a larger push by federal agencies to make strides on climate change adaptation and mitigation in the absence of action from Congress. Capitol Hill is expected to produce little or no climate-related legislation this Congress, but Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) has said she plans to reintroduce a bill soon that she sponsored in the 111th Congress to establish a strategy at HHS for addressing the public health effects of climate change.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500