Galvanizing Climate Justice

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For science.
Climate change creates a series of interconnected impacts on human health.1 As global temperatures rise, heatwaves become more frequent2 and increase the risk of heat stroke and make cardiovascular illnesses worse.3 Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation expand the geographic range of disease-carrying insects,4 leading to more cases of vector-borne diseases, such as Zika virus.5

Increased greenhouse gas emissions makes air quality worse by trapping pollution and increasing allergens that aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.6 Drought causes more frequent and intense wildfires, whose smoke further reduces air quality. Flooding from intense storms leads to property and infrastructure damage, mold growth, food scarcity and water contamination. Flooding can cause injury and death due to trauma and drowning7 and increase stress and anxiety that adversely affect mental health and wellness.8

For action.
Share your story to be a climate communicator: Personal stories from trusted sources make the health effects of climate change relatable. Urge lawmakers to help public health and medical communities prepare for and respond to health threats caused by climate change. Advocate for policies that support a just transition to a low-carbon economy. Support your local health departments to advance health equity and climate resilience. People of color and those with lower incomes experience worse health harms from climate change than white and wealthy people, despite being the least responsible for the problem. To address social inequities and improve our health, we need to strengthen partnerships with communities most impacted by climate change, support community-directed solutions and improve access to health care.

For health.
Building strong communities makes them more resilient. Communities with greater cohesion have better health outcomes after climate-related disasters.9 Addressing climate change alongside other inequities, like racial injustice, helps improve the health of communities.10 If we can keep climate change to below 2 degrees Celsius, we can dramatically improve the health of children born today, for their entire lives.11 And we know that taking action to reduce and halt climate change today will result in fewer disease outbreaks and better mental health worldwide.12

For justice.
While climate change affects everyone, not everyone is affected to the same degree. Structural racism has pushed lower-income communities and many people of color to areas that have fewer resources and more climate vulnerability, such as flood zones and urban heat islands.13 Race is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in this country.14 Because climate change worsens air quality, these communities are more vulnerable to the health effects of climate change. And certain climate-sensitive populations, like children, are more susceptible to heat-related illness, dehydration or diarrheal illness.15 The growth of climate change is an environmental injustice.