Tapped as one of the greatest threats to public health, climate change is expected to have — and is already producing — serious impacts on people’s health and well-being.
- is linked to more frequent and extreme natural disasters, such as hurricanes, flooding and drought;
- is expected to negatively impact food security, water and air quality; and
- exacerbates the risks of vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.
Like so many health threats, climate change is also expected to disproportionately impact already-vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, young children, families living in poverty and people with chronic diseases. On a more global scale, researchers warn that climate change will likely result in forced migration and civil conflict.
Stand up for science! Despite what some American leaders are saying, the science is clear: climate change is real, it's happening and human activities are a main cause. Call for adequate funding to support public health workers in monitoring, preparing for and responding to the health effects of climate change. Support policies that help mitigate and prevent worsening climate change, such as rules that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and partnerships that reduce people's reliance on cars. Such actions also can have positive co-benefits for health, such as improving air quality and encouraging active commuting. Make sure equity is a centerpiece of climate and health actions because climate impacts are not evenly distributed across communities and will likely worsen existing inequities. APHA’s Climate Change, Health, and Equity: A Guide for Local Health Departments is designed to help local public health departments integrate climate change and health equity into practice.
Health departments across the country are already busy preparing for the impacts of climate change, many of them participating in CDC's Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative and embracing CDC's five-step Building Resilience Against Climate Effects, or BRACE, framework. Health departments using the BRACE framework are reporting a variety of success stories, such as launching new vulnerability assessments and working across sectors to reduce emissions. Addressing climate change also comes with new opportunities to save lives and improve health. For example, a 2018 brief from APHA and The Lancet (PDF) reports climate change is encouraging sectors and communities to begin the shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable, clean energies. On the policy side — a key component of tackling climate change — research shows that smart policy can have big effects. For instance, federal officials estimate that reducing power plant emissions could prevent thousands of premature deaths and provide billions of dollars in public health benefits.