Climate change poses a significant threat to human health and well-being. The direct drivers of climate change can affect all Californians, but some Californians are most likely to experience adverse health outcomes.

Those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are the same that have historically experienced health inequities, so climate change has the potential to exacerbate a wide array of pre-existing inequities and conditions of vulnerability for already-disadvantaged people. Many people and places in the state are already experiencing health impacts made worse by climate change, including deaths and illnesses from extreme heat; mental health conditions and loss of jobs from drought; injuries, deaths, and displacement from wildfires; among many other impacts.[1, 2]

Conceptual diagram illustrating the exposure pathways by which climate change affects human health
This conceptual diagram illustrates the exposure pathways by which climate change affects human health. Here, the center boxes list some selected examples of the kinds of changes in climate drivers, exposure, and health outcomes explored in this report. Exposure pathways exist within the context of other factors that positively or negatively influence health outcomes (gray side boxes). Some of the key factors that influence vulnerability for individuals are shown in the right box, and include social determinants of health and behavioral choices. Some key factors that influence vulnerability at larger scales, such as natural and built environments, governance and management, and institutions, are shown in the left box. All of these influencing factors can affect an individual’s or a community’s vulnerability through changes in exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity and may also be affected by climate change.[3]

The good news is that addressing climate change could represent the greatest opportunity to improve public health in our time. Many of the strategies being pursued to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as transitioning to renewable energy and promoting low-carbon transportation and diet, also make us healthier. Such activities clean up our air and water immediately and give us more opportunity for exercise.

The California Department of Public Health, along with other state agencies and local health departments around the state are taking steps to plan for and protect against these risks through a variety of plans and programs. Highlighted below are some of the State’s most recent resources to help locals plan for and protect their communities against the impacts of climate change on health.

All Resources for Public Health