Climate and Health

Climate health benefits infographic from BMJ

Figure: Health and Climate: Co-benefits. Image from the BMJ. Reference article.

Climate Action and Health Inequities

Climate change and health inequities share similar root causes: the inequitable distribution of social, political, and economic power. These power imbalances result in systems (economic, transportation, land use, etc.) and conditions that drive both health inequities and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As a result, we see communities with inequitable living conditions, such as low-income communities of color living in more polluted areas, facing climate change impacts that compound and exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. Fair and healthy climate action requires addressing the inequities that create and intensify community vulnerabilities, through strategically directing extra investments in improving living conditions for and with people facing disadvantage.  

The good news is that addressing climate change represents a significant opportunity to improve public health and advance health equity. Many actions that limit climate change also improve the health of families and communities and reduce health inequities.

Climate Action Strategy

Potential Health Benefits

Inclusive economic prosperity

Invest in economic drivers such as schools and small businesses, sustainable and inclusive business practices, policies that reduce income inequality, fair and accountable public institutions

  • Increase access to resources and opportunities
  • Promote equity and just transition
  • Reduce health care costs
  • Improve physical and mental health outcomes, especially with reducing infant / child deaths and chronic diseases
  • Increase life expectancy
Create safe, stable, living wage, green jobs
Prioritize economically disadvantaged communities for labor and workforce development
  • Promote equity and just transition
  • Reduce poverty
  • Reduce work-related injuries and deaths
  • Improve outcomes across many indicators of health and well-being
  • Reduce health care costs
  • Increase life expectancy
Reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
Active transportation (walking, biking, public transit)
  • Increase physical activity
  • Improve mental health
  • Reduce chronic disease
  • Reduce air pollution
Reduce emissions through land use changes
Transit oriented and infill development
  • Increase physical activity
  • Increase access to services
  • Reduce chronic disease
  • Enhance safety
Reduce energy intensity in local food systems
Buy local, farmers markets, gardens, reduce consumption of red and processed meats
  • Increase access to healthy and fresh foods
  • Reduce air pollution
  • Increase resilience
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Increase social cohesion
Urban and community greening
Tree planting, parks, green infrastructure
  • Reduce temperature and urban heat island effects
  • Reduce air pollution
  • Reduce noise
Reducing building energy use
Energy efficiency, weatherization, cool roofs / green roofs, water conservation
  • Reduce energy costs
  • Create local green jobs
  • Promote healthy homes
  • Promote cooler communities

Reference: California Department of Public Health, Climate Change and Health Equity Section (CCHES)