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Climate Change

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California Environmental Health Tracking Program

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Last Edited: 9/16/2012

Preventing Climate Change (Mitigation)

There are many ways to prevent climate change at the governmental, community, and individual level.  For example, governments can establish policies and regulations to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.  Businesses can install renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases they produce.  Families can bike or walk to work or school.

For all mitigation strategies, there is a common theme of lowering greenhouse gas emissions.  Additionally, many emission reduction efforts will also improve health.  Several broad strategies to prevent climate change are discussed below.

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Improving energy efficiency

Improving energy efficiency in our homes and office buildings can successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the additional benefit of reducing the risk of heat-related illness.  Buildings that are older, poorly insulated, or made of materials that retain heat require more energy to regulate temperature.  Improving a building's insulation and utilizing innovative building techniques, such as putting gardens or vegetation on the roofs of buildings, can lower a building’s capacity to retain heat.  This in turn decreases energy use, leading to deceased greenhouse gas emissions. 

In the event of a heat wave, these “cool” buildings also provide a place for people to cool off, reducing their risk of heat-related illness. Additionally, "cool" buildings can decrease the heat island effect, which will reduce people's susceptibility to heat-related illness.1


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Integrating transportation and land use policies

Better integration of transportation and land use policies can reduce greenhouse gases and improve our health at the same time.  In places with greater distances between homes, workplaces, and everyday destinations, commuters drive more and produce more automobile emissions.  By developing communities where our everyday destinations—schools, places of work, daycare centers, post offices—are closer together and linked by accessible transit services, the number of cars on the road can be reduced.  Less driving means reduced car exhaust, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and improved air quality. 

In addition, the development of  neighborhoods with accessible destinations close by can lead to increased physical activity within a community, with more people choosing to walk to work or to run an errand.  This can reduce motor vehicle collisions, improve air quality, and increase physical fitness.2 


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Resources on climate change prevention (mitigation)

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1. Cutter SL and Finch C. Temporal and spatial changes in social vulnerability to natural hazards. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2008. 105(7):2301-6.

2. Younger M, Morrow-Almeida HR, Vingigni SM, Dannenberg AL. The built environment, climate change, and health: Opportunities for Co-benefits. Am J Prev Med. 2008. 35(5):517-26.