Addressing the Mounting Costs of an Extreme California

by Jennifer Miller, PhD

Today in California, State Senator Fran Pavley chaired a hearing for the state’s Senate Select Committee on Climate Change and AB 32 Implementation, to assess California’s vulnerabilities to climate change as well as the state’s progress on its 2006 climate change legislation. Public Health Institute’s Linda Rudolph, M.D., MPH, testified on the public health risks of climate change in California. Other presenters included Secretary of Natural Resources John Laird, California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols, and Professor Rachel Morello-Frosch from the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health. The hearing looked at rising concerns about extreme weather and short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon.

Formerly deputy director of the California Department of Public Health’s Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Public Health, Dr. Rudolph highlighted some of the many ways that climate change threatens health, and called for strong action on climate. “Climate change is the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century,” said Rudolph. “We can do something about it. Many strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or adapt to climate change have huge health co-benefits. But, our window of opportunity for averting catastrophic climate change is closing.”

Rudolph went on to say that, “the health care cost impacts of climate change are enormous. A recent study found that just six climate-related extreme weather events – three of which occurred in California –generated health costs of over $14 billion.” She presented numerous examples of ways to make our communities more climate resilient, including strategies for reducing urban heat islands with cool roofs, urban greening, and cool and permeable pavements. And Rudolph emphasized that taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions offers direct and indirect co-benefits to health.

More information about today’s hearing, including background materials and Dr. Rudolph’s presentation slides, can be found on the Senate Select Committee’s hearings webpage, and on Senator Pavley’s website.

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