Climate change represents a significant risk to the health of people living in the United States now and in the coming decades. Climate change is worsening existing threats from climate-related weather events (e.g., extreme heat, flooding, wildfires) and chronic burdens on physical and mental health, and introducing new health threats in many areas. These impacts are felt the most in communities that have long been the victims of economic and social discrimination which makes it harder for them to prepare, respond, and recover to climate threats.
The very same communities that have lived with these climate impacts also are experiencing the brunt of environmental injustice. Climate change is an environmental justice issue. There are factors (listed below) that can lead to certain groups to experience both a disproportionate share of exposures to both environmental pollution and climate change hazards. In this way, climate change adds to the cumulative stresses experienced by environmental justice communities. These communities have struggled for years to access clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food and safe shelter, and are disproportionately exposed to pollution and associated harm that seriously damages their health.
HHS aims to protect everyone in the country and their health from climate change and environmental justice, especially the highest-risk communities, from the threats associated with climate change while simultaneously seeking to tackle profound health disparities and environmental injustices that put these communities at exceptional risk.
Notable factors of concern when addressing these disparities include:
Protecting people from the health threats from climate change requires sensitivity and allocation of resources to those most in need, in much the same way as addressing health inequities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn more about how HHS approaches addressing climate change and health equity, and environmental justice.