Climate change has serious and far-reaching health implications for present and future generations. A team of international scientists recently described these challenges in The Lancet as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” (Lancet 2009).
Even if there is local and global action to immediately reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we will likely feel the impacts from the current build up of emissions in the atmosphere for decades. These impacts, such as hotter summers and wetter, warmer winters for the Pacific Northwest, will likely affect our health, especially those most vulnerable. Communities must, therefore, begin to plan and prepare for the likely impacts that will be experienced because of the emissions already present in the atmosphere.
The Multnomah County/City of Portland Climate Action Plan identified “Climate Change Preparation” as one of its eight key action areas with the objective to “adapt successfully to a changing climate”. Adaptation means “to adjust to a new situation or environment” such as an increase in consecutive days over 95 degrees. This public health plan is a part of broader ongoing efforts by the City of Portland and Multnomah County to make our infrastructure, our natural environment, and our society more resilient to climate change. This plan communicates why we as a community, as policymakers and as public health professionals should care about climate change; what the local impacts may be; which populations and areas may be impacted; why equity and justice are key parts of this work; and what we can do to further prevent health issues and disparities.