Much like the difference between climate change and weather, there are both immediate health hazards and long-term threats linked to negative changes in the local environment and ecosystem. We can confidently say that climate change is harming and will continue to harm Colorado’s public health, while demonstrating a direct cause in any particular case is often impractical.

 

At the same time, there are several specific climate-linked health hazards in Colorado that are worth knowing about. More severe heat waves mean more heat strokes. Already one of the most volatile climates in the country, even more extreme swings between heat and cold and drought and blizzards also create harm in everything from more traffic deaths to stunted crop growth.

 

Secondary Health Effects of Colorado Climate Change

Longer, more severe droughts is one eventuality that grabs a lot of the headlines, but long-term water shortages involve a lot more than showers and lawn irrigation. Healthy foods at the grocery store from local sources will cost a lot more and become less accessible to huge swaths of the state’s populations. Again, it may not make the news is as much, but the eastern Colorado plains are also under strain from climate change.

 

Or take wildfires, for example. Droughts and reduced snowpack also mean drier mountain forests, and that’s a problem when there’s a spark. Yes, wildfires have been part of the local ecosystem for countless centuries, but larger wildfires consuming older and newer forests and more total area than ever before can be a huge problem. The release of ozone, CO2, and other particulates is a new and dangerous source of air pollution.

 

More than just wildfires, dried-out forests are also more susceptible to pests especially invasive beetle species. With fewer trees, erosion and soil loss is increased in alpine regions throughout the state, harming recreational and agricultural opportunities.

 

Protecting Colorado’s Public Health

Colorado is known as one of the healthiest states in the nation based on a range of public health data. Anecdotally, between the sunny climes, clean mountain air, and strong outdoors culture, the state’s public health status is no wonder to us. And yet, we also recognize the fragility of the state’s natural environment. Taxed by rapid population growth and increasing vulnerability to effects of global climate change,

 

Both state and national organizations are coming together to make a difference and take meaningful, concrete steps toward mitigating the damage caused by climate change and protecting our state’s natural resources and public health status. There’s been a new focus on the link between climate change and public health. If you’re looking for more information about what you need to know to do our part and to mitigate the personal health effects that our state’s changing climate may have, we recommend you take a look at these resources:

 

  • The American Public Health Association declared 2017 the Year of Climate Change and Health.
  • Colorado has had a climate plan for more than a decade, but the latest Colorado Climate Plan better addresses the challenges and data coming from the latest climate studies.
  • Meanwhile, the Colorado Health Institute has also recently highlighted the myriad effects climate change is likely to have on the state’s health and why.
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