The Obama administration on Tuesday launched an effort to make the case that climate change is not only a future threat, but a current danger to the health of many Americans.
The White House released a draft report by the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program which states that “As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health continue to grow.”
Those health effects include a higher risk of asthma, lengthened allergy seasons and an increase in injuries caused by extreme weather, according to a fact sheet the Obama administration issued.
The fact sheet also warned that those health concerns could be felt disproportionately by the elderly and poor, and said quick action is needed “to protect the health of our communities our kids, and those that are the most vulnerable.”
President Barack Obama and Surgeon General Murthy spoke at a roundtable Tuesday afternoon about the impact of climate change on public health at a forum at Howard University in Washington. They said the costs of inaction on climate change are high in terms of physical suffering and money.
Obama says some families are especially vulnerable, but the problems affect everyone.
“You can't cordon yourself off from air,” the president said.
During a briefing Tuesday, White House senior advisor for climate, conservation and energy policy Brian Deese said doctors are already reporting an increase in patients suffering from the effects of diseases the administration is linking to climate change, particularly asthma and heat-related deaths.
Late last month the White House released Obama's proposal to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent below 2005 levels within the next decade as part of a global treaty to tackle climate change.
The proposal includes several policies already in effect, such as higher fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, energy efficiency measures for buildings and appliances, and programs to eliminate the use of the polluting refrigerant HFC.
It also outlined rules to limit emissions from the oil industry and carbon pollution from power plants.
Republican opponents of the Obama plan such as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell have said the plan is unattainable, will kill jobs and is possibly illegal.
Public opinion polls consistently show the public is skeptical that the steps Obama has taken to curb pollution are worth the cost to the economy. Last year, a Pew Research Center poll showed that while most Americans believe in climate change, most don’t see it as a priority.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.