Climate Change and Public Health Team
California is a national and international leader on climate change as a critical emerging issue. The Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) has mobilized California’s state agencies to develop a coordinated response to reduce California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and other state agencies are conducting research and developing strategies to reduce carbon emissions (mitigation) and prepare for (or adapt to) the challenges brought by climate change. As state health officer, Dr. Karen Smith represents CDPH on the multi-agency Climate Action Team (CAT). Within CDPH Office of Health Equity, The Climate Change and Public Health Team works on policy, adaptation planning, land use and transportation planning, epidemiology, environmental health, health education and risk communication, emergency preparedness and other areas relating to climate change and health. Our partners include programs across CDPH, a variety of agencies in the state’s Climate Action Team, regional and local public health and human services agencies and stakeholders, health and medical care providers, planning and transportation entities, regional and local governments and health equity groups.
The Climate and Health Team provides technical assistance and consultation on climate and health issues and resources and provides speakers for trainings and educational programs. We also work with and share information with federal partners and other state public health entities.
Climate Change and Health in California
How Climate Change Affects Public Health
Climate change creates significant and evolving challenges to the health and well-being of California’s diverse population of nearly 38 million people. While climate change will touch every part of the state, some Californians are particularly vulnerable, especially the very young, elderly, those with chronic diseases and disabilities, communities of color, immigrants, tribal nations, and those with limited resources. Climate change poses a variety of public health risks, including those related to heat, outdoor and indoor air quality, water quality and availability, toxics, extreme weather events, flooding, workplace safety, mobility, infectious and vector borne diseases, limitations on health services, and food safety and food security (1).
Climate Mitigation and Healthy Communities
CDPH has a unique role to identify and assess GHG reduction strategies that improve the health of Californians, or that may have unintentional harms. Many of the key strategies for reducing GHGs are some of the same strategies used by public health departments to improve community health and health equity. There are a number of co-benefit areas that can be actively linked within and across climate mitigation and healthy community efforts. These efforts can help achieve healthier communities in the short term, while also addressing longer term climate risks.
The Climate Change and Public Health Team promotes health as part of local “climate action planning” and regional sustainable community planning efforts under laws like SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act. For more information refer to Climate Action for Health: Integrating Public Health into Climate Action Planning (PDF, 2.2MB)
Health Equity & Climate Change
Health equity is based on the principle that all people have the same opportunities for health. Some people have experienced socioeconomic disadvantage or historical injustice or may be culturally, linguistically or geographically isolated which can lead to a lower quality of life and increased risk of disease, injury and death. Climate change poses immense challenges for achieving health equity because, while all people are impacted by climate, populations that are socially and economically vulnerable will bear a disproportionate burden. These communities already experience higher rates of chronic disease and lower life expectancy, and have fewer resources to plan and prepare for the additional impacts of climate change, presenting them with additional challenges for readiness, response and recovery. Health equity and environmental justice are therefore important goals in the state’s climate adaptation and resilience planning efforts. (2).
(1) Adapted from Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk (PDF, 7.13MB)
(2) Adapted from The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans & How to Close the Gap (PDF)