Public Health and Climate Change
Predicted changes to our climate will directly impact public health. Reducing energy consumption & addressing climate change provides opportunities to create healthier communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions & save money.
Changes in climate will affect community health in many ways:
- Increased air pollution can contribute to increased rates of asthma, respiratory disease, heart/lung disease & cancer.
- Changes in temperature and precipitation can result in longer survival rates for disease carrying mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and rodents, causing an increase in Lyme disease, Hantavirus, malaria, etc.
- Rising water temperatures and extended warm seasons can lead to water and food-borne diseases, including cholera, salmonella, and cryptosporidiosis.
- Extreme weather events due to climate change could adversely affect cities and towns:
- Increased severity and frequency of heat waves will cause increases in heat stress, heat strokes, and associated heat related deaths.
- Increased severity and frequency of heavy rains will bring flood destruction, which leads to contaminated food and water, mold and mildew, lack of shelter, and increased injury, and illness.
- Severe drought causes increased risk of forest fires, and scarcity of food & water.
The built environment and choices of residents can improve health in a community:
– Walking paths and bike accessible trails encourages residents to walk/ride to their destinations. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves the cardiovascular health of the community.
Local government decision makers need to plan and consider necessary changes. Special attention should be paid to populations already effected and at most risk for death and disease, i.e. the elderly and young children.
Cities are including public health elements in their Climate Action Plans and General Plan Updates:
- The City of Berkeley has included health elements in their Climate Action plan http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Planning_and_Development/Level_3_-_Energy_and_Sustainable_Development/Berkeley%20Climate%20Action%20Plan.pdf
- The City of San Francisco also includes public health a concern in their Climate Action plan.http://www.sfenvironment.org/downloads/library/climateactionplan.pdf
- Oakland has made public health a priority in developing their Climate Action Plan http://www.ellabakercenter.org/index.php?p=gcjc_ocac_policies
- The City of Richmond and Contra Costa County are currently developing Climate Action Plans and exploring changes to their General Plans to address Public health.
Integrating public health into climate change policy and decisions, such as land use, housing, and air quality, can have great impact and reduce future risks. Learn more about addressing this issue:
- The California Department of Public Health released a report describing how to integrate public health into climate action planning. This report should be the basis for cities wishing to develop all encompassing Climate Action Plans. http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/CCDPHP/Documents/CAPS_and_Health_Published3-22-12.pdf
- CDC offers national environmental public health tracking tool: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/tracking/
- A useful tool to aid in the visualization of drought, flooding, air pollution, extreme heat and infectious disease: http://www.nrdc.org/health/climate/
- Use solar energy to power municipality buildings, and reduce cooling bills by with lighter building materials to reflect sunlight. http://www.cccclimateleaders.org/public-health-and-climate-change-workshop/
- Utilize electricity-saving technologies in residential and commercial buildings. 75 percent of total electricity consumption in the U.S. could be displaced by more widespread use of improved heating and cooling systems, improved insulation, changing to LED bulbs, purchasing energy saving appliances, etc.
- The City of Eugene, Oregon did a Health Risk Assessment for their Climate Action Plan. http://www.eugene-or.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/2385
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