Climate Change Health Impacts in the United States
Regional Impacts of Climate Change
This StoryMap is a product of the National Environmental Health Association's Programs and Partnership Development department.
What is climate justice?
"'Climate justice' is a term, and more than that a movement, that acknowledges climate change can have differing social, economic, public health, and other adverse impacts on underprivileged populations. Advocates for climate justice are striving to have these inequities addressed head-on through long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies." ("What is climate justice?" Yale Climate Connections, 2020)
Climate justice can mean something different to everyone. For many, the impacts of climate change have been felt for decades. What does climate justice mean to you? (Bartholomew, 2015)
What is health equity?
"Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care." (Braveman, et al, 2017)
Vulnerability refers to "the degree to which physical, biological, and socioeconomic systems are susceptible to and unable to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change" (US Global Change Research Program). To measure vulnerability, there are several indicators to take into consideration. These indicators are both environmental factors, including extreme heat, flooding, drought, wildfires, severe storms, and disease vectors, and social and demographic factors, including poverty, income inequality, age, race and ethnicity, housing, disability, housing, transportation, language, and education (Johns Hopkins University: Climate Change & Health: Assessing State Preparedness). Understanding the disproportionate impacts climate change has on certain groups of people is the first step to working toward climate justice and health equity.
If you have a climate story you would like to share with us, please email NEHA's Climate and Health Project Coordinator, Madelyn Gustafson (email@example.com) and Program Manager, Rosie DeVito (firstname.lastname@example.org) to express your interest.
Co-benefits of Climate Change Mitigation
The stories above show us how climate change action and mitigation can benefit more than just our planet. This concept is called co-benefitting.
"When implementing mitigation and adaptation policies, social or economic hurdles may arise. However, studies are increasingly showing that the implementation of climate policies leads to both cost savings and improvement in health. Mitigation of climate change in various sectors, including housing, transportation and energy, has many co-benefits that lead to substantial health gains and reduced health risks," World Health Organization.
World Health Organization: The WHO provides resources on co-benefits of climate change mitigation, including health care facilities, occupational health, the transport sector, and the housing sector.
Read the Sustainable Development Brief's "The co-benefits of climate change mitigation" (2016) to learn more about health, economic, and sustainability co-benefits.
In addition to climate change mitigation co-benefitting things like transportation, health, housing, and the economy, climate change mitigation can impact food safety and quality. Read the Food Institute's article Food's Role in Climate Change Mitigation to learn more!
NEHA's Climate Change Webpage features current climate and health project work, resources, partnership information, information on CDC's BRACE framework, and climate and health data.
NEHA's Climate and Health Online Community is a unique and interactive way for environmental health professionals to engage and learn more about climate and health opportunities. Participate in discussion posts, find resources, collaborate with other professionals, and share climate and health events from your organization.
NEHA has published seven fact sheets for our Climate and Health Program, based on NEHA and ecoAmerica's report Emergency Preparedness and Response to Climate Change: The Role of Environmental Health. There are seven total fact sheets that can be found on our NEHA Climate Change webpage: air quality, drought, extreme heat, extreme storms, floods, vector, and wildfires. These fact sheets highlight the effects of climate change with critical impacts on environmental health. They provide information and resources on health impacts of climate change, recommendations for reducing adverse outcomes, climate justice and health equity, and the role of the environmental health workforce in mitigating and adapting to these impacts.
In June 2020, NEHA published a revised Climate Change Position Statement. Through our second published statement, NEHA recognizes climate change as a worldwide environmental health challenge that impacts the health and safety of individuals and communities. Developed with leadership and guidance from NEHA's Climate and Health Program Committee, the position statement highlights NEHA's growing commitment to climate change mitigation.
In 2018, NEHA committed to work towards 100% clean energy use by 2030. NEHA commits to employing administrative, educational, engineering, and fiscal measures to meet this goal. These measures will demonstrate leadership, provide a positive energy future, improve people's health, build shared and sustainable prosperity, prepare for harmful effects, and involve all US residents.
ecoAmerica's Climate for Health Program holds a Climate Ambassadors Training, which is offered either online or in-person. The training is focused on health impacts of climate change, solutions, advocacy, and communicating about climate change. If your organization is interested in co-hosting or having ecoAmerica staff hold a Climate Ambassadors Training, please click on the button above.
CDC's five-step BRACE (Building Resiliency Against Climate Effects) framework was designed for health officials to prepare for the potential health impacts of climate change. Jurisdictional health departments can utilize this framework to develop their plans for addressing and preparing for climate change where they live, work, and play.