Climate Change Is the New COVID-19

Climate Change Is the New COVID-19; Guest Editorial by By Matt Dean

Admiral Rachel L. Levine, image: Wikipedia


Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Adm. Rachel Levine and Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg want to know everything about your sunburn. They also want to report the ethnicity, gender, and urbanicity of you and any other American emergently treated for a heat related medical complaint.

Secretary Pete Buttigieg

The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, launched a new “Heat-Related EMS Activation Surveillance Dashboard” aimed at gathering electronic medical record dataabout people who are treated as a result of heat stroke, sunburn, or other medical conditions that are in whole or in part caused by the sun. That data will be used to “help public health officials ensure that outreach and medical aid reach the people who need it most and help decision-makers prioritize community resilience investments.”

As America’s political left transitions from the COVID-19 pandemic to the “existential threat of climate change” as its motive force for political realignment, their charts, scary looking maps, and talking points need surprisingly little modification.

Since 2020, some of the most damaging abuses of government power began with the pretense that communities of color required special governmental protection. Public health officials surmised that as the COVID-19 virus raced through cities, transportation systems, and workplaces, communities of color would disproportionately catch and spread the virus. Policy makers surmised that the high price communities of color would pay required an all-of-government allied response to bring about health equity.

Indeed, a higher price was paid. By the end of April 2020, 48 percent of African Americans reported they or someone in their household had lost a job, and fully 80 percent of Black households reported taking on more debt to pay for basic living expenses.

In that same month, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said, “We don’t want to give the impression that the African American community is more susceptible to the virus,” concluding “We don’t have any data that suggests that. What our data suggests is they are more susceptible to more difficult and severe disease and poorer outcomes.”  In fact, “they” did seem to suffer more from the response as well as the virus.

As vaccines came into production, policymakers justified using race as a determinative criterion for prioritizing who got the shot. Authors publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) argued African Americans should be given the vaccines first, not in spite of their vaccine hesitancy, but because of it. “Public health agencies will have considerable discretion in rationing scarce COVID-19 vaccines,” the article states. “They could become agents of change toward improving social and racial justice. Or they can become complicit in allocation strategies that, once again, disproportionately favor the better-off, White majority.”

That admonition was tragically prescient. Why wouldn’t vaccine hesitant African Americans, many of whom lived through the U.S. government’s Tuskegee Trials, when public health officials knowingly and purposefully withheld curative treatments from blacks for more than a quarter-century, be skeptical of condescending government health officials like Dr. Birx?

Now, Dr. Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci have retired. President Biden has declared the pandemic emergency over and done. As if on cue, the climate crisis troupe, led by Buttigieg and Levine, have stepped in with a new crisis that will never go away, placing their heat maps on the easels previously holding COVID-19 maps.

Levine’s recent comments on  the new Heat Surveillance Tracker could have been taken from a 2020 COVID-19 press conference.  “Extreme heat linked to climate change threatens our health and wellbeing, but it does not impact everyone equally. These threats are faced most acutely by communities of color, our youngest and oldest community members, and low-income households across the country,” Levine said. “These data will help us prioritize heat mitigation strategies, outreach initiatives, and funding for energy assistance to alleviate heat stress and prevent illness in communities at greatest risk.”

Communities of color face increasingly lethal dangers. Drug overdose, suicide, violence, and mental illness are battering families across the country. In the two decades before COVID-19, 1.6 million “excess” African American deaths robbed 80 million precious years of life. Since then, excess deaths have skyrocketed all the more. These staggering numbers firm up the soft bigotry it takes to single out climate change as the most important thing to fix in helping black America achieve health equity.

Our betters in the Biden administration have once again begun with a conclusion. Health equity goals achieved through an all-of-government realignment to “help decision-makers prioritize community resilience investments” should be seen for what they are; a power grab to divert Medicaid money to fund the Green New Deal. If recent history is any guide, the “they” (Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, Levine, and Mayor Pete) are trying to save will be better off without the help.

Matt Dean ( is a senior fellow specializing in health care policy outreach at The Heartland Institute.

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