The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the influence that a public health emergency may have on our life, as well as our liberties and freedoms.
The declaration of the pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “public health emergency of worldwide concern” set the ground for a coordinated global response, the results of which have had far-reaching implications. The United States followed suit, with the Secretary of Health and Human Services declaring a COVID-19 “public health emergency,” and President Trump subsequently issuing a national emergency declaration that authorized the HHS to exercise additional powers. Both actions were taken in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Additionally, the states proclaimed their own emergency in regards to public health, which resulted in lockdowns, school closures, mask laws, and vaccination obligations. The precedent that was created by the COVID-19 pandemic makes it possible that the World Health Organization (WHO), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and state public health agencies might one day declare a “climate public health emergency.” There have previously been several requests for the World Health Organization to formally acknowledge climate change as a “public health emergency of worldwide significance.”
An executive order signed by President Biden has resulted in the establishment of an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. These actions are a step in the right direction. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said that they want to address the consequences of climate change on public health by applying the lessons acquired from the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association are only two of the major public health organizations that have already referred to the effects of climate change as a “public health catastrophe.”
On the other hand, it is yet unclear whether or not this “public health crisis” will develop into a full-fledged “public health emergency” and when this will occur. If it did, the government agencies in charge of public health would have the same extraordinary powers that they claimed to have during the COVID-19 epidemic, including the authority to enforce mandates and limitations that have an effect on our day-to-day lives. The extension of administrative powers as a reaction to climate change is something that this raises major worries about.
In conclusion, the future of a “climate public health emergency” is still up in the air, and a great deal will rely on the activities taken by the WHO, the HHS, and the general atmosphere of politics. Whatever the case may be, it is critical to be aware of the potential repercussions and to maintain a vigilant watch on how this matter develops over the course of the next several years.