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>> Bob Simon: Good Afternoon and welcome
to the White House.
Welcome, too, to those who are viewing our event today
on the web via livestream.
>> Male Speaker: Is that mic on?
>> Bob Simon: Yes, it is.
>> Male Speaker: Okay (inaudible).
>> Bob Simon: Yes, it's on.
>> Male Speaker: Okay.
>> Bob Simon: We're glad that all of you are able
to share in the event today.
Today we're pleased to discuss a major new
scientific assessment that has been completed on the
impacts of climate change on human
health in the United States.
This report has been three years in the making and
its scientific assessment of what is known about the
impacts of climate change on human health and the degree
of confidence that one can have in that knowledge is a
significant contribution to the science on this subject.
Today's introduction and discussion of this new
report will begin with a conversation between
Dr. John Holdren and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Dr. John P. Holdren is the President Obama's
Science and Technology Advisor and the
Senate-confirmed director of the White House
Office of Science and Technology Policy.
In this capacity he's responsible for the
administration's National Science and Technology
Council which oversees the U.S. Global Change Research
Program which produced today's report.
His involvement today is only appropriate as he is a
leading climate expert.
Prior to being appointed as the President's science
advisor, Dr. Holdren spent most of his career as a
faculty member at the University of California,
Berkeley and Harvard, leading into disciplinary
programs focused on energy and technology and policy,
environmental change, nuclear arms control and
non-proliferation, and science and
technology policy.
Gina McCarthy is administrator of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency,
appointed by President Obama in 2009 as the assistant
administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.
She has been a leading advocate for common sense
strategies to protect public health and environment.
Previously Administrator McCarthy served as
commissioner of the Connecticut Department of
Environmental Protection.
During her career which spans over 30 years she has
worked at both the state and local level on critical
environmental issues and has helped to coordinate
policies on economic growth, energy, transportation,
and the environment.
Please join me in welcoming them both to the stage to
start our discussion this afternoon.
>> John Holdren: Well, thank you, Bob,
and thanks to all of you for being here today.
It's a pleasure to be up here with my friend and
colleague Gina McCarthy to talk about the new
scientific assessment of climate change and its
impacts on human health in the United States.
If not a whole of government effort,
this was certainly a much of government effort with eight
departments and agencies involved,
over 100 scientists.
The leadership of the study came from EPA, from HHS,
from NOAA, all under the auspices,
as Bob Simon has already mentioned, of the U.S.
Global Change Research Program and it really
demonstrates I think the capacity of the
U.S. Global Change Research Program not only to fund
research on aspects of global environmental change,
but to convene experts from across the government
to combine their knowledge, to assess critically what
is out there in the literature, and then to
build on that with new analyses, new assessments,
as this particular study has done.
Before we get into the details of this new
assessment and hear from some of the authors and hear
some more from Administrator McCarthy about EPA's
perspective on this work, I want to start by providing
just a little bit of context in terms of what we actually
know about climate change.
Interestingly enough, understanding that
increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon
dioxide would influence the Earth's climate goes back
to the middle of the 1800s.
Some people imagine that this is a new idea;
it is not a new idea; it was recognized by farseeing
scientists in the middle 1800s and the era in which
the scientific community began to take on board
that this was not just a theoretical problem,
but a real problem in the real world,
really began in the late '50s, early 1960s.
So we've got basically 50 years of increasingly
intense study of the climate change issue and those five
decades and more of intensive observation,
monitoring, analysis, have led to the establishment of
I would say five crucial facts that are indeed today
established beyond reasonable doubt.
The first of those is that the Earth's climate is
changing at a pace and in a pattern that is not
explainable by our well-understood,
natural influences on climate.
Climate has been changing of course for millennia under a
variety of natural influences.
Those are reasonably well-understood;
they do not explain what we have been seeing
in recent decades.
A second fact is that what does indeed explain what we
have been seeing is the buildup of atmospheric
carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases and
particles resulting from human activities,
primarily the combustion of fossil fuels and
land use change.
The third fact established beyond reasonable doubt is
that climate change is already causing harm to
people, to economies, and to ecosystems in many parts of
the world and we'll come back to that,
of course in the U.S.
context, in a minute.
The fourth fundamental fact is that that harm will
continue to grow for some time to come,
both because of the time lags and inertia built into
the Earth's climate system, but also the inertia in
civilization's energy system.
We are not able to transform civilization's
energy system overnight.
The fifth insight, and this is very important,
is that the amount of harm to be expected going forward
will be much smaller if society takes aggressive,
effective action to limit the amount of harm than if
we don't; big difference in the expected consequences
based on the action that we do or do not take.
The recent observed and measured changes in climate
around the world include a multi-decade increase in the
global average surface air temperature,
but they are not limited to that.
That's what most people talk about,
how many degrees warming have we seen,
how many will we see, but in fact the changes also
include increased temperatures in the ocean,
a decline in Arctic sea ice extent,
accelerated sea level rise, increased moisture in the
atmosphere accompanied by an increase in torrential
downpours and associated flooding,
increased numbers of extremely hot
days, and in some regions increases in drought,
wildfire, and unusually powerful storms.
The reality of those changes and the conclusion that
human influence on climate is the principal culprit
rest on an enormous number of measurements and
observations made by thousands of scientists at
tens of thousands of locations around the world,
recorded in an enormous number of peer-reviewed
publications and reviews of reviews of reviews of the
scientific validity of that body of work.
The key findings, the findings that I have just
summarized, have been endorsed by every major
National Academy of Sciences in the world,
including those of China, India, Russia, Brazil,
as well as that of the United States,
have been endorsed by nearly every U.S.
scientific professional society,
by the World Meteorological Organization,
by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, and by our own "Third National Climate
Assessment" which we released just two years ago.
Those changes have a broad range of impacts across many
sectors of American society in virtually every region of
the United States, as the "Third National Climate
Assessment" documented, but now in the new report we
have a fresh assessment of the impact of these changes
on an aspect of human well-being whose importance
everybody understands: that is human health.
The assessment that we are releasing today is based on
review and analysis of over 1, 800 peer-reviewed
publications, but also an overlay
of additional study, analysis,
modeling, and conclusions that in turn have been
reviewed -- peer-reviewed by the National Academy of
Sciences, among others.
So, Gina, let me turn to you as the head of the EPA and
ask you what kinds of impacts are we seeing from
climate change as recorded in this study that concern
you from a public health perspective?
>> Gina McCarthy: Well, John, thank you for
the introduction.
I was going to say happy National Public Health Week,
but it sounds kind of like I shouldn't do that, but --
-- it's not -- it's not unhappy
news, because for the first time we really -- this
document provides a really comprehensive scientific
foundation that will tell us what the damages,
what the concerns are with public health and climate in
a way that it can feed into policy folks,
feed into government entities, NGOs,
individuals who really want to know what the future is
going to look like, what we're already seeing in
terms of impacts, and what we might do to mitigate and
adapt to those impacts, but this is the first time
I think in history we've been able to really look at this
and show that it's not just about polar bears and
melting ice caps.
>> Male Speaker: Yeah.
>> Gina McCarthy: It's about our kids;
it's about families; it's about our future;
it's about what our core value is and what
we do to meet our moral responsibility to our kids
in that future.
So this is a really great document to sink
your teeth into.
While you won't be reading happy news,
if knowledge is power, we need it and that's what we
have here for the first time and, John, I want
to thank you for all of your leadership with the
team and also the folks at EPA, because
I can remember in 2013 when EPA was putting
out our "Climate Indicators" report,
the one indicator that was the weakest was
the one that I wanted to be the strongest,
which was the public health indicators and we're all
sitting there, scratching our heads,
saying "How come you can talk about precipitation,
intense storms, sea level rise" -- you know,
we could talk about a lot of those things,
but quantify none of the public health impacts
directly and so it's been a remarkable journey over the
past two years to actually get this science under our
belt in a way that even the National Academies have
reviewed and provided input on.
So it's a -- it's a -- it's a great thing and frankly it
is a wakeup call, because there are a number of
impacts that we are seeing here that we're already
feeling and a number of impacts so that you can
virtually see that every human being in every part of
the United States is impacted now by climate and
will get increasingly impacted if we do not take
action now to try to reduce those impacts.
So we're talking about everything from impacting
our food, our water, our air,
and our weather and if that's not enough,
it's probably impacting how happy you are every day and
what your mental health status is.
So if you take a look at this, we're seeing things,
John, that I think you know well,
which is you're seeing an actual increase in deaths
and illnesses resulting from increased challenges to meet
our ozone standard, because as the weather gets warmer
we see significant challenges in meeting
the health-based standards that we have set for
ourselves that is resulting in significant,
quantified impacts on public health that are
in this document.
You are seeing for the first time a lot of better
articulation of the challenge of wildfires
associated with this, which is actually fairly
frightening, to look at what are we going to do to manage
our forests better, recognizing that you're
going to see a lot of naturally-occurring,
significant damage as a result of wildfires and
all of the trauma that that causes.
You are looking at waterborne illnesses
and increases in waterborne illnesses.
You're looking at challenges that are related to more
intense floods and droughts.
So you're looking at whether or not we can deliver clean
drinking water and whether there is drinking water to
drink that's available.
We're seeing those challenges today;
it means in a changing climate they are going
to be more severe as we move along.
For the first time, John, I am seeing --
and this is -- we talked about this.
There's always something new to learn,
which is really kind of fun.
We're looking at food safety issues.
We're looking at foodborne illnesses potentially
becoming much more serious.
We're looking at the instability in food supplies
that can happen as a result of extreme weather events
and we're looking at the fact that increases in CO2
actually can rob proteins and significant minerals
that we're now getting in our -- in our food supply,
like wheat and rice, and if that is lower in its
nutritional value what does that mean overall?
So it documents these not only, in many cases,
in terms of our quantified results,
but for those where we cannot,
we can look at the changes that we see over time and
hopefully it will guide in our ability to take action
in the U.S., which we know under this President we are
doing, action that has spurred international action
as well, but it also challenges us to look at the
costs associated with inaction and what that means
for the future of our kids.
>> John Holdren: Great.
Well, Gina, you gave us quite a tour of the health
impacts of climate change.
I would mention just a couple of others: one is
allergens; longer, more intense allergy seasons with
particular effects on the very substantial number of
Americans and particularly young Americans who have
asthma aggravated by these allergens.
A second one worthy of further mention is
vector-borne diseases.
In the study, the principal focus on vector-borne
diseases was on tick-borne Lyme disease and
mosquito-borne West Nile virus,
simply because those have been extensively studied,
but the report points out that we can expect further
changes in the seasonality and the geographic range of
a number of vector-borne diseases
as climate change proceeds.
The last one that I would mention,
that is very striking I think in this report,
is heat-related illness and death.
The report projects that under middle of the road
emissions scenarios, we can see from thousands to tens
of thousands additional heat-related deaths in the
United States each summer and the numbers are really
very striking and it comes from the fact that modest
increases in average temperature are associated
with large increases at the tails of the distribution
and that means big increases in extreme heat events,
extremely hot days and heat waves,
which mean five or more extremely hot days in a row.
In some parts of the world, when you look more broadly
at this question, you see the likelihood that in the
hottest times of the year it will be simply
physiologically impossible to work outdoors;
that means agriculture; that means construction.
People who try to work outdoors will basically be
unable to control their body temperature and will die.
This is a really, really big deal and it's going to be a
big deal in the hottest parts of the United States
as well as in the Middle East, in South Asia,
and other places.
>> Gina McCarthy: John, I would also add that I think
this report does a really good job at looking at
vulnerable populations, not just by looking at those
populations, but looking at how each of these
health-related impacts will impact different populations
differently, but it shows that while everybody will be
impacted, you have some significant populations,
kids, pregnant women, the elderly, low-income,
some minorities, that really will be disproportionally
impacted by these health consequences and it really
sort of reminds ourselves I think that we have
significant job to do to figure out how we adapt to
a changing climate and what those adaptation strategies
might be, but also it is a real wakeup call for
innovating and investing in a low-carbon future today
and not waiting and I think, John,
you know that the President has called in
his Climate Action Plan not only for really good science,
which this represents, but really good responses to
that science and EPA's moving forward in a bunch
of different fronts, which we can get at
if anybody's interested.
>> John Holdren: Yeah, let's --
>> Gina McCarthy: I always like to talk about that.
>> John Holdren: Well, let's come back to that
in a minute.
I just -- I just want to amplify something you just
said, Gina, which is when the President released his
Climate Action Plan a couple of years ago now
and followed it up with the extraordinary leadership
that the United States showed,
moving into the Conference of the Parties -- the 21st
Conference of the Parties of the U.N.
Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris this
last December and achieved this remarkable result where
196 countries have stepped up with their own targets of
how much they're going to reduce their emissions by
2025 or 2030 and commitments from the developed countries
to assist countries in need, both with investments in
mitigation and in adaptation.
Basically what that reflected was as
understanding that the whole panoply of impacts of
climate change requires not just national,
but global action and it requires action both on
the mitigation front, on reducing the offending
emissions, but also on investing in increased
preparedness, resilience, and adaptation to deal with
the changes in climate and their consequences in the
human health domain, in the ecological domain,
in the infrastructure domain,
changes in climate that are no longer avoidable.
There is a huge difference between the amount of
climate change and impact we'll have to deal with
under high emission scenarios versus under low
emission scenarios, but we cannot avoid impacts
altogether and we're going to have to deal with those
by investment on the preparedness, resilience,
and adaptation front, but let me come back to you,
Gina, and EPA.
Doesn't this all simply reinforce the 2009
"Endangerment Finding" that EPA made and which is really
the underpinning of EPA's approaches to dealing with
these challenges?
>> Gina McCarthy: Well, it's really -- I'm so glad
you mentioned that, because we were talking about that
-- just when we were leaving the early press release I
was talking to a couple of the EPA folks and it seems
like decades ago we did the "Endangerment Finding."
Does it seem like it to anybody else?
Let's hope the Supreme Court remembers all
those good decisions --
-- because it was -- it was a remarkable
accomplishment and it does actually underscore it.
It's just building on the wealth of evidence that we
have here and I think one of the things I like best about
this report is that we quantify where we can,
but we also express this in terms of our confidence in
the likelihood -- you know, our confidence in the data
and the evidence and the likelihood that the impacts
we're anticipating will happen.
This gives people a really good sense of what the
consensus is of all of the top science on this and
scientists and I mean it's expressed the same way as
the IPCC assessment and it really shows the strength of
the data and I'm hoping that it continues to jumpstart
the conversation about the dangers of inaction and the
absolute essential nature of the call to action that this
-- that this public health impact is going to sort of
ignite and I'm hoping it results in really
innovation, it results in investment in a low-carbon
future, and it provides the support we need as
policy-makers and as leaders in government to actually
take the action we need that's commensurate with the
core values we all hold dear and the challenge to those
core values that climate change poses.
>> John Holdren: Great.
Well, thank you, Gina; really appreciate your being
here to discuss the broad contours of this new report
and its relation to what EPA's mission of protecting
human health primarily is.
I also want to note that we have been joined by Senator
Ed Markey, one of the great leaders in the United States
Senate on the issue of climate change -- (applause)
-- and we're certainly all looking forward to hearing
Senator Markey's perspective on these issues a little
later in the program.
For now though we are going to launch into some of the
comprehensive scientific findings in this assessment
in more detail with a panel on the key findings.
That panel will be moderated by Christine Blackburn of
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
I think if you look at your program,
you will note and even if you don't,
you will soon discover the multi-agency character of
this panel; that mirrors the multi-agency expertise that
was brought to bear on this study being launched today.
So with that, let me thank you again, Gina,
and ask all of you to join me in welcoming Christine
and the panelists to the stage.
>> Gina McCarthy: Thank you, Doc.
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Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States

1614 Folder Collection
Minh Hiếu published on April 27, 2017
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