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Denying Climate Change ‘Will Cost Us Billions Of Dollars,’ U.S. Budget Director Warns

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 20th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Denying Climate Change ‘Will Cost Us Billions Of Dollars,’ U.S. Budget Director Warns

Extreme weather, drought and wildfires all take a toll on the federal budget.

The post Denying Climate Change ‘Will Cost Us Billions Of Dollars,’ U.S. Budget Director Warns appeared first on ThinkProgress.

OMB Director Shaun Donovan.

OMB Director Shaun Donovan.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The new U.S. director of the Office of Management and Budget used his first speech to talk about the dangers not acting on climate change poses to the federal budget.

Shaun Donovan, head of the OMB, said in a speech at the Center for American Progress Friday that acting on climate change is “tremendously important” to him and that it’s “critical to our ability to operate and fund the government in a responsible manner.”

“From where I sit, climate action is a must do; climate inaction is a can’t do; and climate denial scores – and I don’t mean scoring points on the board,” Donovan said. “I mean that it scores in the budget. Climate denial will cost us billions of dollars.”

Donovan noted that climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, and singled out Superstorm Sandy as a storm that caused huge amounts of damage — $65 billion in all, making it the second most expensive weather disaster in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina. According to a Center for American Progress report from 2013, the U.S. was hit by 14 extreme weather events that created at least $1 billion in damage in 2011, and 11 billion-dollar disasters in 2012. Added up, the disasters from these two years created up to $188 billion in total damage.

Donovan also pointed to wildfires as a major drain on the federal economy. Spending money fighting wildfires during the U.S. fire season — which climate change has already made longer and more intense — uses up the money that the U.S. Forest Service could use on forest management, he said. In 2013, the Forest Service ran out of money to fight forest fires, and had to divert $600 million in funding from timber and other areas in order to continue battling wildfires. It was the sixth year since 2002 that the Forest Service was forced to divert funds from other areas in order to continue fighting fires.

“So we spend what we have to in order to put out the fires, and then we under-invest in the tools that can help mitigate them, only leading to higher costs in the future,” Donovan said.

Drought, too, has been a major expense in the past. The 2012 drought, which hit states like Kansas and Indiana worst of all and decimated corn and soybean crops, cost the U.S. a record $14 billion. And this year’s western drought will likely cost California $2.2 billion and put about 17,000 agricultural workers out of a job.

Two recent studies back up Donovan’s fiscally-driven push to act on climate change: a report from the New Climate Economy Project and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both found that cutting greenhouse gases may actually lead to faster economic growth, and the IMF noted that the co-benefits of cutting carbon emissions — which will come largely in the form of improvements to public health, such as decreased asthma and other respiratory illnesses and attacks — will help drive down medical costs.

Donovan’s speech comes days before President Obama speaks at the United Nation’s climate summit in New York on Tuesday. The summit will come after what organizers are calling the “largest climate march in history,” which could attract more than 100,000 people who will march through Manhattan to show their support for climate action. Lawmakers have introduced bills on climate change leading up to the events in New York — on Friday, 10 senators introduced a bill targeting “super pollutants” such as methane and soot, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill that aims at helping the U.S. prepare for the health impacts of climate change.

The post Denying Climate Change ‘Will Cost Us Billions Of Dollars,’ U.S. Budget Director Warns appeared first on ThinkProgress.

More Than 700 Newborn Babies Exposed To Tuberculosis

A worker infected with tuberculosis interacted with patients in Providence Memorial Hospital’s nursery for nearly a year before doctors diagnosed him with the disease.

The post More Than 700 Newborn Babies Exposed To Tuberculosis appeared first on ThinkProgress.


CREDIT: Shutterstock

Officials in a Texas hospital are scrambling to give free screenings and follow-up care to more than 700 newborns and 40 employees thought to have been exposed to tuberculosis, the El Paso Times reported Friday.

The El Paso Department of Public Health issued a statement on Friday stating that a worker infected with tuberculosis interacted with patients in Providence Memorial Hospital’s nursery for nearly a year before doctors diagnosed him with the disease.

“TB is a serious but treatable disease that is spread through the air,” the health department said in a letter to parents. “Although TB is not easy to catch from another person, we want to be extra sure that your child is examined.”

Tuberculosis, the potentially fatal disease also known as TB, affects the lungs and other parts of the body. It thrives in dense housing, shared living spaces, and areas with poor ventilation. The infected can spread tuberculosis through the air when they cough and sneeze. Drug-resisistant strains of TB are on the rise, threatening a global crisis.

More than one million people worldwide — particularly those living in areas with poor health care systems — succumb to the disease each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Defeating tuberculosis depends of proper use of medication, as prescribed by doctors. If left untreated, the disease poses great risk to infected people and those in their immediate surroundings.

To mitigate the risk of tuberculosis mutating into a deadlier, antibiotic-resistant strain, patients have to take a cocktail of antibiotics over the course of six months, as suggested by WHO. But that doesn’t happen often, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found. According to the study, health care providers in 75 percent of U.S. hospitals often prescribe the wrong dosage of prescription medication to their patients.

Experts say that mismanagement and misuse of prescription medication may have caused more than 70 cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the United States in 2013. In the previous year, China and India reported a combined 124,000 cases, which proliferated in areas where people lived in close quarters.

“What could happen is progressively multi-drug resistant TB takes over from normal tuberculosis,” Dr. Mario Raviglione, the director of the WHO’s Global Tuberculosis program, told BBC News last year. “If this happens, not only would millions of patients potentially die of this form of TB, but if I look at it from an economic perspective the cost of dealing with millions of potential cases is enormous.”

Experts say TB’s comeback is partly because it is regarded as a “disease of poverty,” and because pharmaceutical companies assumed that current vaccinations would eliminate the disease. The Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, a Netherlands-based organization dedicated to the research and development of new tuberculosis vaccines, says that efficient drug therapies, new vaccines, and accurate diagnoses can quell the spread of the disease and save tens of millions of lives across the world.

While a host of vaccinations — including BCG, TBVI, and Aeras — have either been developed or are currently undergoing the development stages, many hurdles exist in doling out treatment.

Between 2001 and 2011, prices of vaccine packages that treat nearly a dozen diseases increased by more than 2700 percent, according to the Public Library of Science. A 2011 UNICEF Supply Division data set also showed that Western pharmaceutical companies charged the United Nations program more for its products than its Indian and Indonesian counterparts.

While the Affordable Care Act, dubbed as Obamacare, allows poor people to receive complementary preventative care — which includes immunizations, screening, and tests — Texas’ low income residents may not be able to use those services, due to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

Texas currently leads the nation in the number of uninsured with 6 million people — one out of six of whom is children. Uncompensated medical treatment costs the state $4 billion annually, according to a letter that judges from Texas’ six largest counties sent to state legislators in August. A White House report released that month stated that Medicaid expansion would cover 1.2 million Texans by 2016.

In the Lone Star State, where tuberculosis affects Latinos and African Americans in great number, proper vaccination can be effective against the disease that’s been called a silent killer. This reality holds especially true for low-income children, a group found often to not be up to date on their vaccinations. As the CDC said in its recent report, early immunization can prevent excessive school absences and lower future health care costs.

The post More Than 700 Newborn Babies Exposed To Tuberculosis appeared first on ThinkProgress.

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