San Francisco is linking health and climate change impacts under a program that aims to educate and empower citizens and public agencies to improve resilience.

The Challenge

For the last decade, cities have invested in developing climate action plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, yet less attention has been paid to developing adaptive measures to protect public health during climate change-related extreme weather events. This program seeks to rebrand climate change as a public health issue and has partnered with city agencies to educate them about climate change health impacts.

 

The Solution

Climate change is expected to more seriously affect the health and well-being of communities that are least able to prepare for, cope with, and recover from the impacts, such as the fact that extreme heat days in San Francisco are projected to increase by up to 40 days per year. To address this challenge, the City and County of San Francisco’s Climate and Health Program is successfully addressing the public health impacts of climate change by leveraging data driven planning and health indicators to create policies around climate adaptation on a local level.

By centralizing and formalizing the collection of neighborhood-level data, the program provides neighborhood organizations, city departments, and direct service providers a simple, streamlined way to access information on climate and health. The Community Resilience Index is a summary of 36 equally weighted indicators from nine categories, such as hazards, environment, housing, economy, and demography. The index scores are visualized on neighborhood-level maps on a website where all data is open-access. The innovative use of data and assessments has initiated a public dialogue on the link between climate change and health, and resulted in actions to strengthen community resilience.

 

Environmental Benefits – This data-driven approach to tracking the health impacts of climate change supports projects that reduce CO2, improve energy efficiency and increase renewable energy production, as well as reduce water use and support sustainable transportation.

Social Benefits – The development of a heat wave and flood disaster response plan, as well as appropriate surveillance and outreach activities, are keeping San Franciscans safe in the event of extreme weather and natural disasters.

Economic Benefits – Low-income communities are more sensitive to the economic stresses associated with climate change, such as increased prices for basic needs and threats of job loss, which this program addresses.

Health Benefits – The program’s use of climate data helps the city design solutions that eliminate health disparities.

 

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments.  You can access the full Cities100 2015 publication online here.