There is no funding for the Climate Office of Health and Human Services

Suspension

A week after taking office, President Biden signed a sweeping deal executive order which established a new federal office focused on tackling the health consequences of climate change, which disproportionately affect poor communities and communities of color.

Management had big plans for the office. For the first time, it will organize the full powers of the federal government to help Americans suffering from extreme heat under deadly conditions heat wavesbreath in danger forest fire smokefleeing from massive flood It struggles to get clean drinking water amidst a Historic drought The thirst of the West.

“Many climate and health disasters collide at once,” Biden said He said At the time, he added, “Just as we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we desperately need a unified national response to the climate crisis.”

But nearly a year after the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Office of Climate Change and Health Equality, Congress has yet to provide No funding, forcing him to operate without any full-time employees at a time when climate disasters are worsening across the country, according to interviews with four officials there.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster last summer

“Right now, it’s an unfunded office,” said Admiral Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary of Health for the United States. “What we really need is funding to get permanent employees.”

In his budget plan Released in MarchBiden has requested $3 million to support eight full-time jobs in the Climate Office. Government financing package that passed the house Last week he would give the full $3 million. So is the spending bill unveiled by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

However, government spending bills passed by lawmakers last year also included $3 million for the Climate Bureau — until that money was stripped of the legislation at the last minute as part of a behind-the-scenes deal. This has alarmed officials in the Climate Bureau.

“Funding is not final until it is final,” said a Health and Human Services official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no permission to comment publicly.

Senator Richard C. Shelby (ALA), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, accused Democrats Thursday of using spending bills to go after spending Green New DealThe liberal proposal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the country over 10 years while ensuring well-paid jobs for all.

“Senate Democrats’ bills seek to use the appropriations process to advance radical environmental and climate policies,” Shelby said. statementciting proposals to support the solar energy industry and reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from livestock.

A Republican spokeswoman on the committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Without full-time staff, the climate office has taken on secondment staff from other federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. But those employees can be called back to their original agencies if the office does not receive funding in the coming months.

John Balbos, interim director of the Climate Bureau, regretted that there was a debate about funding his work in the first place.

“Establishing an office to make sure our communities and health systems are ready to meet the threats of extreme weather that are becoming more frequent and common due to climate change should not be,” Balbos said, “it shouldn’t be so controversial.” “The world’s 200 leading health journals have identified climate change as the single biggest public health threat of this century. This issue needs focused attention now.”

Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Climate Resolve, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, noted that $3 million pales in comparison to what some states are spending to deal with climate impacts. For example, California has agreed to spend $100 million over two years to create “community resilience centers,” where people can cool off during a heat wave or access power during power outages caused by extreme weather events.

“When California spends more than the federal government on public health protection measures associated with climate change, it’s kind of awful,” Parfrey said.

Still, Levine said, comparing the climate bureau to these statewide efforts is like “apples and oranges,” where The office aims to coordinate work across the federal government rather than creating resilience centers and related facilities.

Doctors say inaction on climate change is putting millions of lives at risk

In recent years, the medical community has increasingly recognized that climate change is a major threat to public health. The Lancet, a high-profile medical journal, warned Last year, global warming is set to become “the defining narrative of human health” — leading to food shortages, deadly disasters and disease outbreaks that would dwarf the toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rising temperatures lead to higher rates heat illnessThis caused farm workers to collapse in the fields and elderly people to die in their homes. Smoke from wildfires seeped into the lungs and bloodstreams of people hundreds of miles away. Severe drought has damaged crops, causing severe hunger and food insecurity for the world’s most vulnerable population.

These effects were most severely affected by low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which were disproportionate exposed to polluted airpolluted water and other environmental threats, according to a growing body of research.

In San Jose, for example, temperatures rise by 6 or 7 degrees in slums that lack tree cover, making it difficult for residents to cool down during a heat wave. “We know that these differences widen over time and have real implications for children, seniors and others who may be at risk,” San Jose Mayor Sam Licardo said.

In Albuquerque, officials recorded a 17-degree difference between the coolest and warmest parts of the city on a summer afternoon. High temperatures pose the greatest danger to the homeless and those who lack air conditioning, said Kelsey Ryder, the city’s sustainability official.

Biden has made addressing these inequalities a cornerstone of his climate agenda. under Justice 40 Initiative, he has pledged to “deliver at least 40 percent of the total benefits of federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.”

In May, as part of this initiative, the Health and Human Services announced the formation of a new Office of Environmental Justice. It is located within the Office of Climate Change and Health Equality – which means that it also has no funding.

said Rep. Darren Soto (D-Florida), who recently participated in a roundtable with the Climate Bureau on protecting farm workers from extreme heat. “So this office needs the resources to speak on behalf of those who lack a historical voice.”

If the climate office gets funding, officials said, it will have a range of programs it wants to launch or expand. Among them are efforts to reduce carbon emissions from hospitals, fund internships in community health departments and train community health workers to assess people’s exposure to heat or smoke from wildfires.

“I would be positive and optimistic that we will get funding for fiscal year 2023,” Levine said. “You know, please eternal fountains.”

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revision

An earlier version of this article stated that the Office of Climate Change and Health Equality was launched over a year ago. In fact, it was launched almost a year ago. Additionally, an earlier version of this article misspelled Jonathan Parfrey’s name. The article has been corrected.