PRIORITY Bolster Public Health and Safety to Protect Against Increasing Climate Risks

Climate change poses significant threats to public health and safety across California. These health and safety impacts are having serious effects on the lives of our state’s residents, sometimes literally threatening lives.

Climate-driven events including droughts, floods, extreme heat, wildfires and sea-level rise pose a broad range of harms to health and safety. Climate-related damage to health can be immediate and acute, as well as sustained and long-term. Wildfires, for instance, can injure and kill people while creating toxic, hazardous smoke across the state that worsens respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Wildfires also destroy homes and livelihoods, with cascading economic and mental health effects. Extreme heat, for example, can cause illnesses that require immediate hospitalization, as well as increase cumulative physiological stress on the human body, resulting in conditions such as kidney disease, adverse birth outcomes, or risk of suicide. As heat waves and droughts have intensified, their effect on several vector-borne, foodborne, waterborne, and soil-borne infectious diseases have already impacted Californians over the past decade and are expected to increase further resulting in many more illnesses and deaths.

These events also have impacts on food supply and security, water supply and sanitation, environmental hazards such as harmful algal blooms, and many others. Climate change is a threat multiplier, worsening existing health inequities. Preventing and reducing acute and long-term health and safety impacts of climate-driven events requires a comprehensive, equity-focused approach across sectors and regions.