President Obama Says Climate Change’s Impact On Health Is Personal For Him And His Family

President Obama’s daughter Malia is now 16. But when she was just a toddler, she was rushed to the emergency room for an asthma attack. The president felt a “terrible” fright when his daughter, with whom he is very close, had trouble breathing, as reported in the Chicago Tribune. The climate change then became an issue that affected President Obama personally, according to Good Morning America.

The president said the following to Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News‘ chief health and medical editor during an interview.

“Well you know Malia had asthma when she was four and because we had good health insurance, we were able to knock it out early….And if we can make sure that our responses to the environment are reducing those incidents, that’s something that I think every parent would wish for.”

When Dr. Besser queried the president regarding why people should care about the impact of climate change on public health when there are so many other pressing health problems, President Obama responded as follows.

“Keep in mind that climate change is just one more example of how the environment will cause health problems, and I think most people understand that.”

Obama noted that his lungs would burn within five minutes of running because of the severe smog and air pollution in Los Angeles in 1979 when he was in college. He stated that “[w]e took steps to deal with it, and today, it’s not perfect, but it’s a whole lot better. And the same thing is true with climate change.” A video link to Obama’s statements regarding the connection between people’s health and the environment is here.

The president stated that the effect on health and the science of climate is definite. For example, when there are more wild fires, more particulates are sent into the air, leading to a longer allergy season, leading to higher asthma rates. Earlier, the White House set out a series of initiatives dealing with the impact of climate change on Americans’ well-being. The president stated the following, according to Good Morning America.

“So the idea here is that by having doctors, nurses, public health officials who’ve come together highlighting the consequences of warmer temperatures, not only can communities start thinking about adapting and planning around those issues but individual families can also recognize that there is a link here, and collectively we can start doing something about it.”

And the fact sheet from the White House noted that, although people are aware of climate change triggering droughts, severe storms, and wildfires, people generally don’t discuss the health problems and illnesses that can result from such changes. It noted that such problems especially occur in low-income communities that may not have the amenities such as air conditioning.

White House senior adviser Brian Deese stated that the government can “empower more Americans with the information and tools that they need to help take action to address this threat,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

But not everyone buys into the link between climate change and health issues in the population. Officials at the Heartland Institute based in Chicago issued a statement criticizing the White House effort. According to their mission statement, they are to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. H. Sterling Burnett, an environment and energy policy research fellow at the Institute, issued the following statement, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“Climate change, if it poses any true threat of harm, is at best a distant threat–with fewer, less severe hurricanes and greater crop yields, rather than the opposite being the norm. Linking asthma and children’s health problems to climate change is the worst form of hype.”

Ethan Jackson, a researcher with Microsoft Research who is participating in the administration’s climate change initiative, indicated that Microsoft will use technology to better understand the environment as part of a data collection effort.

Because compiling information about pathogens is so difficult, generally diseases are only detected after an outbreak occurs. However, Jackson stated that Microsoft is developing a system to capture mosquitoes and identify pathogens prior to people becoming infected. Jackson stated that the next steps are as follows, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“We’re particularly interested in applying safer systems to better understand the state of the environment and its implications on human health and agriculture.”

On a lighter note, Malia recently learned how to drive. According to an Inquisitr article, Michelle Obama admitted that Malia was given driving lessons by the U.S. Secret Service.

[Photo by Pool/Getty Images]