WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama will ask Americans to think of climate change as a threat not just to the environment, but also to their health.
Obama was to announce today a series of steps that private entities like Google and Microsoft are taking to better prepare the nation’s health systems for the inevitable effects of a warmer, more erratic climate. He was to be joined at Howard University Medical School by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy.
Warning of the perils to the planet has gotten the president only so far; polls consistently show the public is skeptical that the steps Obama has taken to curb pollution are worth the cost to the economy. So Obama is aiming to put a spotlight on ways that climate change will have real impacts on the body, like more asthma attacks, allergic reactions and injuries from extreme weather.
Microsoft’s research arm will develop a prototype for drones that can collect large quantities of mosquitoes, then digitally analyze their genes and pathogens. The goal is to create a system that could provide early warnings about infectious diseases that could break out if climate change worsens.
Google has promised to donate 10 million hours of advanced computing time on new tools, including risk maps and early warnings for things like wildfires and oil flares using the Google Earth Engine platform, the White House said. Google’s camera cars that gather photos for its “Street View” function will start measuring methane emissions and natural gas leaks in some cities this year.
The Obama administration was also to announce a series of modest steps it will take to boost preparedness, such as expanding access to data to predict and minimize the health effects from climate change.
Obama’s effort to link climate change to health comes as he works to build support for steps he’s taken to curb U.S. emissions that are opposed by business and industry, including strict limits on vehicles and power plants. The president is relying on those emissions cuts to make up the U.S. contribution to a global climate treaty that he and other world leaders expect to finalize in December.