Climate Change Omitted from National Biodefense Strategy

On September 18. 2018, the White House published a new National Biodefense Strategy which is intended to “lay[] out a clear pathway and set of objectives to effectively counter threats from naturally occurring, accidental, and deliberate biological events.” The strategy calls for improved management of biological risks and notes that this “requires understanding and assessing” their causes. With respect to “naturally occurring biological risks,” the strategy lists “[u]rbanization, habitat encroachment, and increased and faster travel” as factors that are contributing to the spread of infectious disease. Notably however, the strategy does not discuss climate change, which scientists have warned will also increase the risk of disease outbreaks.

Multiple scientific studies indicate that the risking temperatures associated with climate change will likely expand the range of disease-carrying mosquitoes or other pests. Studies also show that increases in the frequency and severity of extreme rainfall events and associated flooding due to climate change will increase the risk of waterborne diseases.