Rep. Lois Capps introduces legislation to protect health from climate change, extreme weather

You don’t have to convince the 13,000 American public health professionals in Washington, DC this week for the American Public Health Association meeting that climate change harms people’s health. They recognize the health risks of carbon pollution, and see the huge health benefits we stand to gain by creating more climate-resilient communities and homes right now. We need to make this a national priority.

Wednesday November 2nd, US House of Representatives member Lois Capps (D-CA) re-affirmed this urgent message on the Hill, by reintroducing the Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act, which would improve the public health response to climate change.  The legislation would address the negative health effects related to climate change by supporting research, surveillance, planning and interagency coordination. 

Congresswoman Capps (CA-23) was joined by representatives of some of the nation’s leading public health organizations to announce the legislation, including Dr. Georges Benjamin, the Executive Director of American Public Health Association; Dr. Jeffrey Levi, of Trust for America’s Health; Dr. Jerome Paulson, of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and David Dyjack, Associate Executive Director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Only 13 U.S. states have any type of climate change-health preparedness measures in place currently in their climate action plans, as NRDC’s “Climate Change Threatens Health” webpages detail, state by state. That means 37 states lack climate-health preparedness plans. Most of us are sitting in the cross-hairs of climate change.

Given the experiences of 2011, a year in which thousands of extreme events have broken heat, drought, rainfall, and flooding records from coast to coast, this has to change. The more we take stock of the staggering toll these extremes are having on health and communities in the US and around the world, the more we realize: it’s time to shift toward doing.

That’s what Rep. Capps’ bill is about: action. Becoming more resilient and better prepared. Not getting blindsided when extreme events occur, because we’ve looked ahead.

Climate change preparedness makes people and communities healthier and more resilient. Climate change is harming health right in our backyards today. Preparedness pays off in terms of healthier communities right now – and a more secure, prosperous future for our grandchildren.

Rep. Capps’ proposed legislation deserves our applause, our attention, and our vocal support.