The climate gap: environmental health and equity implications of climate change and mitigation policies in California—a review of the literature

Abstract

Climate change is an issue of great importance for human rights, public health, and socioeconomic equity because of its diverse consequences overall as well as its disproportionate impact on vulnerable and socially marginalized populations. Vulnerability to climate change is determined by a community’s ability to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of major weather events. Climate change will affect industrial and agricultural sectors, as well as transportation, health, and energy infrastructure. These shifts will have significant health and economic consequences for diverse communities throughout California. Without proactive policies to address these equity concerns, climate change will likely reinforce and amplify current as well as future socioeconomic disparities, leaving low-income, minority, and politically marginalized groups with fewer economic opportunities and more environmental and health burdens. This review explores the disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable groups in California and investigates the costs and benefits of the climate change mitigation strategies specified for implementation in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). Lastly, knowledge gaps, future research priorities, and policy implications are identified.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The term socioeconomic status or socioeconomic position (used synonymously) will refer to the position of an individual or group along the spectrum of access to the resources necessary to maintain their health and economic livelihoods. Socioeconomic status thus encompasses variables such as income level, inherited wealth, educational status, beneficial social networks, and race/ethnicity.

  2. 2.

    Since the 1930s when National City Lines, a holding company run by corporate partners in the automotive industry, bought and dismantled a considerable portion of the public transit infrastructure in Los Angeles, residents without a personal automobile in the Los Angeles-Long Beach Metropolitan Area have been at a severe disadvantage (Kunzli et al. 2003).

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Acknowledgments

Work for this project was supported by: the California Air Resources Board, the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Annenberg Foundation, the Energy Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation.

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Correspondence to Rachel Morello-Frosch.

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Shonkoff, S.B., Morello-Frosch, R., Pastor, M. et al. The climate gap: environmental health and equity implications of climate change and mitigation policies in California—a review of the literature. Climatic Change 109, 485–503 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-011-0310-7

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Keywords

  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Heat Wave
  • Extreme Weather Event
  • Climate Change Policy
  • Extreme Heat Event