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Al Gore puts the CDC's health and climate conference back on track — minus the CDC

An abruptly postponed conference on climate change and its effects on human health is going to take place after all — thanks to Al Gore.

But there’s a caveat: The conference’s original sponsor — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — won’t be involved.

Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Assn., told the Washington Post that the former vice president called him up after the news broke of the conference’s postponement and said, “Let’s make this thing happen.”

 “It was a no-brainer,” Benjamin told the Post.

The Climate and Health Summit was originally scheduled to be held from Feb. 14-16 in Atlanta.

It wasn’t officially canceled, but in the weeks after Donald Trump was elected president participants received word that the conference would not be happening as scheduled.

The agency never gave a reason for the change in plan. In a statement it said it was “exploring options to reschedule the meeting while considering budget priorities for fiscal year 2017.” 

So non-governmental groups took the matter into their own hands.

“They tried to cancel this conference but it is going forward anyway,” Gore said in a statement released by the Climate Reality Project, an education and advocacy group he founded. “Today we face a challenging political climate, but climate shouldn’t be a political issue.”

The year 2016 was the third consecutive hottest year on record, and experts say that the growing number of hot days has a direct effect on public health — for example, by exacerbating the proliferation of the Zika virus.

“The evidence is clear that climate change is a major threat facing the public’s health,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, in a statement. “Openly discussing these scientific issues will help us prepare for this looming challenge and better protect the American people.”

The new conference will be sponsored by a consortium of organizations including the APHA, the Climate Reality Project, Harvard Global Health Institute, and the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment. 

Organizers added that due to the expedited time frame of the event, the CDC’s originally scheduled three-day summit will be replaced by a one-day meeting on Feb. 16.

Still, they say it will preserve the intent of the postponed meeting — providing a forum for public health professionals and the climate community to discuss solutions to what could be a growing health concern. 

deborah.netburn@latimes.com

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