A climate change meeting that was indefinitely delayed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is back on, but without the CDC this time.
The original conference had been co-sponsored by the CDC and the American Public Health Association (APHA), which said that former Vice President Al Gore stepped in to help keep the meeting alive.
“I was minding my own business and he picked up the phone and called me,” said APHA executive director Dr. Georges Benjamin.
“It was a hole in the world that needed to get filled,” Benjamin told NBC News.
Benjamin said the CDC canceled the original meeting because it came so soon after a new administration came into office. “They were not sure what the new administration’s position on climate change would be,” Benjamin said.
“This is primarily about health and not about politics,” Benjamin said, adding that he and Gore felt it was important to move ahead.
“Today we face a challenging political climate, but climate shouldn’t be a political issue."
The APHA, Gore, The Climate Reality Project, Harvard Global Health Institute, the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment and Dr. Howard Frumkin, former director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health are the new organizers, the APHA said.
“They tried to cancel this conference but it is going forward anyway,” Gore, now an environmental activist, said in a statement.
“Today we face a challenging political climate, but climate shouldn’t be a political issue. Health professionals urgently need the very best science in order to protect the public, and climate science has increasingly critical implications for their day-to-day work,” the statement said.
“The evidence is clear that climate change is a major threat facing the public’s health."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA both say 2016 was the hottest year in recorded human history.
Warming global temperatures disrupt weather, ocean currents and can affect people not only with severe storms, floods and droughts, but by damaging crops, helping the spread of disease and encouraging dangerous insects such as mosquitoes.
“As extreme heat events become more common, more severe, and longer-lasting, scientists expect to see an increase in deaths and illnesses from heat, particularly among vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, economically disadvantaged groups, and those with chronic health conditions made worse by heat exposure,” the CDC says on its climate and health webpage.
“The evidence is clear that climate change is a major threat facing the public’s health,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “Openly discussing these scientific issues will help us prepare for this looming challenge and better protect the American people.”
President Donald Trump has questioned climate science and his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, fought hard against EPA regulations and even sued the agency.
But he did reassure senators in confirmation hearings this month. "I do not believe that climate change is a hoax," Pruitt said during a hearing.