The CDC’s climate change conference has yet to be rescheduled, but a new alternative event has just been confirmed, albeit without the government’s participation. And it’s all thanks to former U.S. Vice President and climate change awareness advocate Al Gore.
The new development comes on the heels of recent reports that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had, with little fanfare, canceled its climate change summit shortly following Donald Trump’s election as president. According to E&E News, the conference was originally scheduled to take place in February at the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters, and it wasn’t clear at that time why the government agency called it off, or when it would be rescheduled, as it hinted in a brief statement.
“We are currently exploring options so that the Summit may take place later in the year.”
E&E News also wrote that the CDC climate change conference’s cancellation came at a curious time, considering how Trump has often been quoted as calling climate change a “hoax” and global warming a “bunch of bunk.”
We will host Climate & Health Meeting to fill gap left by canceled CDC summit. https://t.co/qQR2UWxyMW
— Al Gore (@algore) January 26, 2017
A few days later after news of the cancellation broke, reports suggested that Al Gore, who had previously served in the White House as Bill Clinton’s vice president, had worked behind the scenes to make sure the CDC’s climate change conference would get itself a plausible and credible replacement event.
American Public Health Association executive director Georges Benjamin told the Washington Post about a conversation he had with Gore, and how they got the new summit to push forward. He referred to the earlier cancellation as a “strategic retreat,” given how the Trump administration tends to doubt climate change.
“He called me and we talked about it and we said, ‘There’s still a void and still a need.’ We said, ‘Let’s make this thing happen. It was a no-brainer.'”
The CDC, however, will not be involved in the conference and will not be hosting it at its headquarters. The event will still take place in Atlanta, at the nonprofit Carter Center, on February 16, and will last only one day as opposed to the three-day schedule for the original summit. A number of non-government organizations, including the Harvard Global Health Institute, the Turner Foundation, and Al Gore’s own Climate Reality Project, are sponsoring the conference. Organizers have expressed hopes of attracting up to 200 experts across the U.S. to warn attendees about how climate change can potentially affect our health if not curbed.
Regarding the CDC climate change summit that was recently called off, many believe that the event’s quiet and unexplained cancellation was a bad move for the health agency. An attendee who chose to remain anonymous told the Washington Post that the conference should have pushed forward unless the CDC was explicitly told by the Trump administration to cancel.
“The meeting was important and should have been held,” the attendee remarked. “Politics is politics, but protecting the health of our citizens is one of our government’s most important obligations.”
Al Gore also offered his own comments on the matter on Thursday, explaining why he was so determined to organize something in lieu of the CDC’s conference.
“Today we face a challenging political climate, but climate shouldn’t be a political issue. Health professionals urgently need the very best science to protect the public, and climate science has increasingly critical implications for their day-to-day work.”
The Washington Post also noted that it’s still not sure whether CDC employees previously confirmed for the agency’s summit will be at Al Gore’s replacement event on February 16. The agency itself has also remained mum on the matter, not providing any comment on why the original CDC climate change conference was canceled, or whether its employees can attend the Gore-organized summit.
[Featured Image by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images]