Climate Change

Definition

Climate change is defined as a change in global or regional climate patterns. In the context of health, this addresses the effects of climate and geography on health, including changes, such as temperature extremes and deaths associated with heat stress.

Concentrations of greenhouse gases (gases in the atmosphere that absorb and emit heat) in the earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and ozone, have increased 40 percent from 280 parts per million (ppm) in 1750 during the Industrial Revolution to 406 ppm in 2017 (1). These and other factors alter the climate, and as a result, bring many serious human health and environmental consequences. The National Climate Assessment notes that:

Climate Change threatens health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, threats to mental health, and illnesses transmitted by food, water and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks (2).

Changes in climate impacts our health and the environment in Colorado in many ways, as described in the graphics below from the Colorado Health Institute:

Source: Colorado Health Institute, 2017 Colorado’s Climate and Colorado’s Health Report

Source: Colorado Health Institute, 2017 Colorado’s Climate and Colorado’s Health Report

Source: Colorado Health Institute, 2017 Colorado’s Climate and Colorado’s Health Report

Health Disparities and Inequities

Climate change is anticipated to impact certain vulnerable populations more than others due to underlying health conditions that increase their sensitivity to impacts such as heat waves and worsening air quality. Climate change health impacts will potentially reverse or reduce some of the progress made in improving the health of vulnerable groups such as older adults, children, non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics. Health disparities among older adults may also worsen as climate change-related heat and air pollution increase their susceptibility to heat stress while aggravating underlying respiratory conditions — while minority populations already facing elevated rates of hypertension, smoking and diabetes will also be impacted (3).

Implications and Data for Jefferson County

Community Health Needs Assessment Focus Group Findings

No concerns were reported by focus group participants. 

Community Health Needs Assessment Key Informant Interview Findings

No concerns were reported by focus group participants. 

Extreme Heat Days

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extreme heat is one of the largest climate-related public health impacts, and for our state and county it’s the most significant (4). This is because rising heat is expected to impact one of our most valuable natural resources — our water supply. Over the past 30 years, the average temperature in Colorado has risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit, ranking it as the 20th fastest-warming state in the country. As daily average temperatures increase over time, snow melt drains earlier than usual in the spring —meaning less water is available later in the year to revitalize forests, water crops and meet human needs (5).

In Colorado (2014), there were 248 Heat-Related Hospitalizations

- Environmental Public Health Tracking Network data

From 1979 to 2013 there were no recorded days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Jefferson County

- Environmental Public Health Tracking Network data

Wildfire Risk

As our state’s forests become drier as a result of a warmer climate, the potential for wildfire increases drastically. Consequently, wildfires increase the amount of dust and fine particulates in the air, which can have severe health effects on vulnerable populations, such as those with heart or lung disease.

In the two maps below you can see the areas of highest risk for damage to property (left) and the intensity of fires, if one were to start in a given area (right). Click on either image below to be taken to Colorado's interactive fire mapping risk program.

Impact of wildfires on personal property

Source: Colorado Wildfire Assessment Risk Portal. https://www.coloradowildfirerisk.com/

Potential wildfire intensity

Source: Colorado Wildfire Assessment Risk Portal. https://www.coloradowildfirerisk.com/

Community Resources within Jefferson County

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Reference List


1. Lindsey, R. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2017, October 17). Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Retrieved from: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide

2. U.S. Global Change Research Program. (2014). Third National Climate Assessment: Health Chapter. Retrieved from: https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/sectors/human-health

3. U.S. Global Change Research Program (2018). Climate and Health Assessment. Retrieved from: https://health2016.globalchange.gov/climate-change-and-human-health

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Climate Change and Extreme Heat Events. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/ClimateChangeandExtremeHeatEvents.pdf

5. Colorado Health Institute. (2017, July 10). Colorado’s Climate and Colorado’s Health: Examining the Connection. Retrieved from: https://www.coloradohealthinstitute.org/research/colorados-climate-and-colorados-health

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Data Sources


CDC, Environmental Public Health Tracking Network: https://ephtracking.cdc.gov/DataExplorer/#/

United States Drought Monitor: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Colorado Wildfire Assessment Risk Portal: https://www.coloradowildfirerisk.com/

Published on July 17, 2018

Click on the logos below to return to the assessment page.