The American Public Health Association has declared climate change a public health emergency and, nationally, climate change experts, public health practitioners, and leaders of communities at the frontline of climate impacts point to how climate change exacerbates unjust health disparities that certain populations and communities – namely people of color, indigenous peoples and low-income communities – suffer as a result of historic discriminatory policies, community underinvestment, and disenfranchisement from political power and decision-making processes. Nationally, the U.S. sees constant reminders of how these realities manifest in health outcomes – disproportionately high rates of cancer, asthma, COPD, premature death, low birthweight infants, and depression. As a nation, we have witnessed how these realities are amplified by changing climate conditions: with high temperatures increasing ground level ozone and worsening existing respiratory conditions, heat waves giving no relief to people living without benefit of air conditioners or escape to cooler green spaces, extreme weather events leaving communities vulnerable to recovery that drives gentrification, and flooding that drives people from their homes with poorer chances of returning compared to their white, more affluent counterparts.
In this report, the NJ Climate Change Alliance identifies short-term opportunities for local, regional and state actions in New Jersey. These opportunities are in the areas of community-based planning, measurement and assessment, health and worker protections, and state-level action.