Health and Climate Change

Health and Climate Change

How does climate change impact human health?

Climate change threatens human health and wellbeing in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfires, decreased air quality, threats to mental health, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. Some of these health impacts are already underway in the United States. “We know that climate change exacerbates many of our most pressing health challenges, and disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our communities. We know that climate change also threatens critical systems upon which human life depends - our air, our water, food, shelter, and security.” We need to “act quickly to address climate change, the greatest health challenge of the 21st century.”  Public health actions, especially preparedness and prevention, can do much to protect people from some of the impacts of climate change. Early action provides the largest health benefit- and this goes for actions by individuals as well. Not every health decision has to do with sustainability, but every sustainable choice does protect health. Responding to climate change provides opportunities to improve human health and well-being across many sectors, including energy, agriculture, and transportation. These strategies protect people while combating climate change and providing other societal benefits.

Our changing climate has become increasingly evident. Each of the last three decades has been warmer than any decade since 1850. Climate change impacts our health and wellbeing by worsening existing diseases and conditions while introducing new pathogens and pests. By lowering CO2 you can lower these health risks. By adopting many of the sustainability practices in this Guide, you will also improve your health:

Eat Local and Organic: Eating locally grown food helps your body adapt to local allergens. Eating organic ensures the highest level of nutrition in your daily food!

Bike or walk instead of Driving: Decreasing your vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will reduce GHGs and ozone levels while giving you the opportunity to bicycle or walk in the fresh outdoors! Bicycling and walking are great aerobic exercise. In a busy work day, combining your commute with exercise saves time and gym costs. Biking has low joint strain while effectively strengthening cardiovascular health. Bicycling and walking can help lower stress levels.  Getting daily exercise lowers stress, improves health and productivity, and counteracts the negative impacts of desk jobs. Less CO2 as a result of less driving will maintain/decrease the amount of “bad” ozone days. Days where there are high levels of ground-level ozone can cause respiratory distress, especially for asthmatics or others with respiratory ailments.

Air Seal: Besides the energy savings, air-sealing a house can improve indoor temperatures, eliminate pathways for cockroaches and mice, and reduce incidence of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, asthma, and other conditions. A professional energy audit will identify a number of health and safety problems including gas leaks, carbon monoxide, faulty wiring, problems with combustion devices, e.g. stoves, heaters and water heaters, and others.

Water Conservation: By fixing leaks and ensuring inappropriate sources of moisture are remedied, households will contain less mold and fewer pests. This improves indoor air quality and decreases asthma triggers.