Former Vice President Joe Biden drew a connection yesterday between his argument for more aggressive action on climate change and fighting infectious diseases.
The connection was part of the Democratic presidential candidate’s plan to fight the new coronavirus. While the pandemic is unlikely to be active if Biden takes office as president in January 2021, he offered the plan both as advice to the Trump administration and as a preview of how he’d handle future disease outbreaks.
"The link between climate change and health security is well-documented and will create a growing threat to Americans," Biden’s campaign wrote in a portion of the plan dedicated to climate change.
"A Biden Administration will recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on day one and lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets. As President, Biden will fully integrate climate change into our foreign policy and global health security strategies, and prioritize efforts to mitigate disease and migration challenges caused by a warming planet."
Various scientific reports, including the 2018 National Climate Assessment, have found that global warming and its impacts can exacerbate disease outbreaks. One way that happens is by intensifying transmission of the diseases, especially if they are food- or water-borne.
Biden didn’t mention climate in his speech announcing the plan yesterday, but he did speak extensively about global health and his contention that President Trump has let health cooperation around the world fall by the wayside.
"We should be investing in rebuilding and strengthening the Global Health Security Agenda, which we launched during our administration, specifically to mobilize the world against the threats of new infectious diseases," he said.
"No president can promise to prevent future outbreaks," he continued. "But I can promise you this: When I’m president, we will be better prepared, respond better and recover better. We’ll lead with science, we’ll listen to the experts, we’ll heed their advice, we’ll build American leadership and rebuild it to really the world and meet global threats we’ll likely to face again."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden’s rival for the Democratic nomination, also gave a speech yesterday on the coronavirus but made no mention of climate.
"We need to make sure that in the future after this crisis is behind us, we build a health care system that makes sure that every person in this country is guaranteed the health care that they need," Sanders said.
This story also appears in Climatewire.