Climate change is a major public health concern impacting the health and well-being of people living in the tri-county metro area (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties). The 2018 National Climate Assessment found that the Pacific Northwest has warmed about two degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, resulting in warmer winters, declining snow pack, and more instances of high heat, drought, and wildfires. The impacts of climate change are not contained within county borders and addressing and preventing the impacts to people in our community requires a collaborative and comprehensive approach involving health care, public health, community-based organizations, civic groups, private industry, and local and state elected officials.
The first step in addressing climate change impacts to the tri-county metro area is understanding the ways health is impacted. To do this, Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington county public health departments partnered to create a report that provides baseline data on 12 health conditions within five environmental areas that climate change is known to affect. The full report is available here.
Climate change events likely to impact health in the tri-county region include heat waves, extreme weather events, conditions that promote the spread of disease-causing insect and bacteria populations, and poor air quality. This story highlights impacts of air quality and extreme heat.
Changes in air quality are strongly linked to climate change and events related to hotter, drier conditions as our region experiences more smoke from wildfires. Air quality is expected to worsen as a result of the increase in smoke and other harmful pollutants like smog (ground-level ozone). Groups who face higher risk of health impacts from poor air quality include: outdoor workers, children, immigrants and communities that are culturally or linguistically isolated and may not have access to emergency communications, and those living near high traffic areas or industrial facilities.