Policy Recommendations to Benefit the Sierra Part Four: Preparedness and Public Health
This post is Part Four of a five part series detailing the content of Sierra CAMP’s newly released Sierra CAMP’s Policy Recommendations for the 2017 Update of Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk, ("Safeguarding California" is the state’s climate adaptation plan).
Click here to view the full report.
We have broken the report into five sections, each of which will have its own blog post describing the topic area’s current policy landscape followed by our recommendations. The five topic areas include: Integrated Watershed Management, Forest Restoration, Regional Economic Development, Preparedness and Public Health, and Structural Recommendations.
Part 4 of 5: Public Health and Preparedness
Current Status: Consistently warmer temperatures and persistent drought make wildfires increasingly normal in California’s Sierra Nevada Region. While the rest of California suffers from the secondhand effects of wildfires such as higher asthma rates, haze or drinking water contamination, residents in the Sierra Nevada region face these effects at dangerously close proximities.
Wildfires threaten air quality, local economies, public health, private property and human lives in the communities closest to the fires. For example, following the 2014 King Fire, counties adjacent to the fire experienced weeks of “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality conditions.
Poor air quality from wildfire is also linked to increases in asthma and respiratory-related hospital admissions from communities both near and distant to the fires. These conditions burden rural health care systems and challenge emergency response systems in these areas. Adequate planning and preparation is necessary to protect Sierra Nevada communities from the close effects of natural disasters, both for their safety and the safety of communities across the state.
Our Recommendations: There are three categories of recommendations contained within this section of the report: prioritizing policies that create co-benefits in air quality, public health and disaster preparedness, developing the best practices in public health accounting methodologies, and providing technical assistance and encouraging cross sector collaboration. Sierra CAMP’s recommendations will help mitigate the effect of climate change on public health.
We recommend prioritizing policies that allocate and award funding to projects and programs that will serve multiple benefits regarding public health, air quality, disaster preparedness, etc. No program that currently administers funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) uses criteria other than GHG emissions reductions and energy cost savings. The true value of a project should also factor in public health benefits and consequences.
Sierra CAMP also supports streamlining the quantification methodologies for public health co-benefits and factoring them into project evaluations. For instance, the Public Health Analysis Supplement of the Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan estimates that AB 32 implementation will prevent 320 premature deaths by 2020, in addition to 9,000 fewer instances of asthma and lower respiratory symptoms, and reduce the number of lost work days by 53,000.
We support providing technical assistance and encouraging cross-sector coordination and collaboration. We recommend increasing funding to programs that address climate adaptation from the perspective of multiple sectors, like CalBRACE. Sierra CAMP also encourages the State to provide technical assistance and additional resources for emergency planning in rural communities, including information on available programs and grants.
Public Health consequences and natural disasters caused by climate change are a serious concern and are given due attention in Sierra CAMP’s policy recommendations. Not only are the communities in the Sierra severely affected by these dangers, but so is the entire state.
The final part of this five part blog series will be Part Five: Structural Recommendations. Read up on our previous Safegaurding Reccomendations, including Part One: Integrated Watershed Management, Part Two: Forest Restoration, and Part Three: Regional Economic Development to learn more.