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November 18, 2019

Chairwoman Johnson's Remarks at the Launch of the 2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Global Report & U.S. Policy Brief

Keynote Remarks

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Launch of the 2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Global Report & U.S. Policy Brief 

Good morning and thank you to Climate Nexus for the invitation to speak with all of you today.  

I have previously said that climate change is the biggest environmental challenge of our time.  But I would argue, and I think others in this room would agree, that it is also one of the biggest public health emergencies of our time.

Rising global temperatures have already caused significant negative impacts to our environment and economy. But they have also led to a rise in the spread of vector-borne diseases, diminished nutrition in our food crops, increased exposure to heatwaves, and greater incidence of post-traumatic stress from natural disasters.

As the first registered nurse elected to Congress, the health and wellbeing of my constituents have always been a high priority for me. Ensuring a clean and sustainable environment is critical to safeguarding the health of all Americans, including our future generations.

Since 2016, the Lancet Countdown has released annual reports and policy briefs on Health and Climate Change. These reports have shown that the current public health challenges we face will only be exacerbated by rising global temperatures. The 2019 Lancet Countdown highlights worsening patterns in its climate indicators, such as extreme heat and weather, and infectious diseases. These indicators show that marginalized and vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts.

Nurses and doctors consistently rank among the most honest and trusted professions by Americans. That’s probably why former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and I were invited to speak here this morning. Healthcare professionals are ideal messengers for the trends that the Lancet Countdown tracks, and they should be working to incorporate the impacts of climate change into their medical practices.

Climate scientists have become more willing to speak publicly about the dangers of a changing climate; now it is time for healthcare professionals to join them.

Ultimately, the best way to protect public health from the negative impacts of climate change is to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius, as is stated in the IPCC’s recent special report.

We need to be “all-in” to achieve this extremely challenging goal. In that regard, I will continue to, advocate for increased investments in research and development for technologies that would help prevent, mitigate, and adapt to the challenges of climate change.

I’m proud to say that as the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, we have taken a largely bipartisan approach to addressing climate change this Congress. Our first hearing this Congress was on the state of climate science, which touched upon the impacts of climate change on public health. We have held many hearings focused on climate change since then and have also moved multiple pieces of bipartisan legislation out of our Committee that seek to mitigate climate change as well as address its impacts.

My staff has been hard at work on a suite of legislative proposals that will improve our deep decarbonization efforts, including the authorization of large increases in funding for clean energy research and development where it is most needed. Provisions in these bills will not only be tools that we can use to fight climate change, they also will be helpful for strengthening our energy security and environmental sustainability, all while better ensuring health equity for all Americans.

Though this Administration has abdicated its role as a leader in addressing the climate crisis, many of us in Congress are committed to addressing all aspects of this global threat. My colleagues and I are working to ensure there are robust research investments to better understand and address climate change impacts to all aspects of our lives, including public health. Resources like the Lancet Countdown are critical to inform future discussions on our Committee, and in Congress as a whole.

I am encouraged to see the Lancet Countdown bring together such a robust international collaborative effort that includes experts across many disciplines. I am hopeful that strong research collaborations like the Lancet Countdown will continue to promote action to protect public health in the face of a rapidly changing climate. Thank you again for having me this morning.