Climate Change
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Climate Change, the Environment, and Health

Air Quality

Climate change and air pollution are closely linked. Air pollution from human activities contributes to climate change, and resulting increases in temperature are expected to also worsen pollution. Air pollution contributes to a number of respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Low-income communities and communities of color in California are especially vulnerable to air pollution.

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Wildfires

High temperatures, strong winds, and dry conditions all favorable conditions for wildfires will increase with climate change. As California's climate changes, wildfires will become more frequent and more severe. In addition to destroying wildlife and homes, wildfires have serious health impacts. These health impacts include death and injury from burns or smoke inhalation, displacement from one's home, and the traumatic stress of experiencing such a disaster.

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Extreme Heat

The effects of extreme heat are already being felt throughout California and the entire country. During the 2006 California heat wave, there were 16,166 more visits to emergency rooms and 1,182 more hospitalizations than usual in the state. Similar extreme heat events will increase over time. The health impacts of extreme heat events range from mild heat cramps to death. Certain populations, such as elderly people living alone, face much greater health risks during heat waves.

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Vector-borne Diseases

Vector-borne diseases (VBD) are infectious diseases transmitted to humans by animals, also called vectors, such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, lice, and rodents. Climate change can cause vectors and the diseases they carry to spread more rapidly or in a broader geographic range. When vectors spread to new areas where people live, work, or play, more people may be at risk of contracting VBD. This is particularly true when vectors move into places that they have never inhabited before, or conversely, when people move into areas where vectors exist.

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Floods, Droughts, and Extreme Weather Events

As the climate changes, extreme weather events will occur more frequently. Examples include droughts, which are caused by an extreme lack of precipitation, and floods, which are caused by an extreme abundance of precipitation. Extreme weather events will impact health in many ways. For example, changes in water runoff patterns will alter our food and water supplies. In addition, changes in the weather and water runoff patterns will influence the spread of vector-borne diseases. Floods can devastate our communities and result in drownings, infections, displacement from one's home, and long-lasting mental health effects.

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Sea level rise

Sea levels are expected to rise in the coming decades as a result of melting of mountain glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets. As water temperatures increase with global temperature increases, ocean water will naturally expand, compounding the issue. Over time, sea levels will encroach on land that is home to families, businesses, and communities. It is estimated that a 5-foot increase in sea level would put nearly half a million Californians at risk of losing their homes to flooding.

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