Climate change poses a threat to Washington’s snowpack, coastlines, forests, and agricultural economy. But climate change also adds to existing health disparities and increases the burdens on the state’s most vulnerable and sensitive populations.
Extreme heat events and increasing air pollution mean increases in diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and COPD, and it may mean that these diseases become more prevalent.
The impacts to vulnerable and sensitive populations of urban heat islands, food deserts, and homelessness will also be magnified by the effects of climate change.
Climate change worsens environmental injustice. The health concerns influenced by climate change are more acute for communities who already face disproportionate exposure to diesel emissions, toxic contamination, and other forms of pollution.
Other factors, like a person’s age, language spoken, disability, and their access to affordable health care, technology, and the internet, may create barriers to receiving essential information and resources needed to protect health or ensure well-being for their families and communities.
Scientists and researchers at the Washington State Department of Health built a database of geographic, demographic, environmental, and health information to help understand health data and identify health disparities in Washington.
Ecology uses this powerful tool to develop criteria to evaluate potential investments from the $140 million settlement the state received from the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal. Using the database helps us direct funding for electric transit and school buses, cleaner diesel vehicles, and charging infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles toward projects that benefit communities disproportionately burdened with air pollution.