The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), in partnership with Climate for Health, a program of ecoAmerica, has developed a five-minute video featuring NEHA members’ success stories addressing climate change impacts and solutions. Environmental health professionals and members of NEHA’s Climate Change Committee from Cambridge, Massachusetts; Salt Lake County, Utah; and Franklin County, Ohio share their inspiring stories regarding strategies for adaptation, mitigation at the community level, and strong coalitions and collaborations.
The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts released a comprehensive climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA) in 2015, updated in 2017, and it was determined that the climate of the past is no longer a reliable indicator of the future. The CCVA set out to model what would happen to the city’s residents and built environment when there was an increase in temperature, precipitation, sea-level rise, and coastal storm surge; as well as what implications that would have on economics, health, and well-being. The assessment identified Cambridge’s key physical and social vulnerabilities based on an assumption of no action taken to model scenarios bracketed by low and high greenhouse gas emission levels on two planning horizons (2030s, 2070s). The assessment demonstrated variation in potential excess heat and flooding hazards by scenario with uneven distribution of risks based on neighborhood geographic and demographic factors. The city ranked vulnerability factors and critical assets that led to prioritizing two main areas of the city in developing a neighborhood-based Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience Plan (CCPR) that will be expanded to a citywide plan. The goal of the CCPR is to provide a realistic set of actions and strategies in both the
short and long-term that could be implemented in partnership with the city, its residents, and partner organizations and businesses. The CCPR is divided into sections to address both social and physical vulnerabilities, including health status, buildings and infrastructure, and the natural ecosystem. Cambridge is focused on novel community engagement strategies aimed at building neighborhood social capital, enhancing social connections before an emergency exists, and increasing resident self-determination and empowerment.
Salt Lake County, Utah
The consequences of climate change are real, well-established, and happening now—and Salt Lake City and County are addressing the challenge of climate change by helping clean the air. Clean air is the silver lining of climate change response. In many major cities zero-emissions vehicles and buildings will play an important part in achieving cleaner air. Fortunately, there has been a dramatic reduction in the cost and effectiveness of wind and solar energy in recent years, as well as an increase in the willingness of individuals, families, organizations, and many governments to step forward and act. Salt Lake County Health Department completed a comprehensive Climate Adaptation Plan and a seminar to introduce it to the community; and hosted its Fourth Annual Climate and Health Symposium—a time for local experts to discuss and report on climate activities. Salt Lake City Mayor Jacqueline Biskupski is an ardent advocate for climate change response. She was selected as Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Alliance for a Sustainable Future and is one of the early adopters of the Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy goal.
Recently Salt Lake City opened the first net-zero energy fire station in the nation. Salt Lake County is also a partner with the Utah Climate Action Network, an initiative led by Utah Clean Energy, and they provide a forum for all climate experts and leaders to share ideas and best practices on climate solutions. In October they hosted Utah Climate Week where a wide-range of concerned community members, organizations, and businesses will promote awareness and action around climate change.
Franklin County, Ohio
In early 2016, the Ohio Public Health Association (OPHA) recognized a lack of funding and inconsistent local public health efforts to address climate change in Ohio. With dedicated statewide funding unavailable, OPHA convened a group of public health practitioners, academicians, and other interested subject matter experts to discuss the public health response to this issue. The Ohio Public Health Climate Resilience Coalition’s (OPHCRC) purpose was to leverage knowledge and resources across the state to create a white paper and toolkit for local health departments to utilize and to encourage public health action. Utilizing the CDC’s BRACE framework, the group worked to assess climate impacts and identify vulnerabilities in Ohio. With this information, the OPHCRC began development of a white
paper to demonstrate a coordinated public health effort in Ohio that would also raise awareness of the need for local action. With priorities and budgets shifting, it was imperative for local governing bodies to take action when and how they could. The coalition continues to work to supply local health departments with tools and resources they can use in their communities to build climate resilience.
Vanessa DeArman, Project Coordinator, NEHA
Kari Sasportas, MSW, MPH, REHS/RS, Manager, Community Resilience and Preparedness, Cambridge Public Health Department
Royal DeLegge, PhD, LEHS, RS, Director Environmental Health Division, Sat Lake County Health Department
Richard Spencer Valentine, LEHS, Air Quality Manager, Salt Lake County Health Department
Niki Lemin, MS, RS/REHS, MEP, Assistant Health Commissioner, Director of Environmental Health, Franklin County Health Department
Jennie W. McAdams, MPH, Health Promotion and Community Engagement Supervisor, Franklin County Health Department
NEHA is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health. Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. Learn more about our partnership and the resources available to you here.