People working in a spinach field

Improving Health in the Face of Climate Change

The consequences of climate change have severe ramifications for human health. Extreme heat presents direct threats to life. Warming temperatures allow disease-causing pathogens to push into previously unaffected regions. Climate-driven water shortages jeopardize access to clean drinking water. Wildfires and their impact on air quality worsen existing health conditions and cause new respiratory problems in previously healthy individuals. Disaster-induced mental trauma can continue for years. 

Managing health risks driven by our changing climate is an unprecedented challenge requiring numerous disciplines to work together to find real-world solutions. It’s a daunting problem the UC Davis Institute of the Environment is uniquely positioned to address.

The Institute supports interdisciplinary research related to climate-driven environmental exposures, as well as the causes and prevention of adverse health effects. We work with our centers to bring students, researchers, outside agencies, and the public together to share knowledge about the importance of the environment and its connection to human health.

The Center for Health and the Environment and the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety lead this work within the Institute of the Environment, with each of the Institute’s centers playing a role.

The Institute also recognizes health impacts from climate change are not distributed equally. Negative impacts more intensely affect low-resource areas and Indigenous, underrepresented, and immigrant communities — with higher health risks for children and older adults; people with asthma, compromised immune systems, disabilities, and/or chronic mental health conditions; and certain occupational groups, such as outdoor workers, firefighters, and others on the front lines. Housed within the Institute of the Environment, the UC Davis Environmental and Climate Justice Hub provides a central place to coordinate and enhance research, teaching, and outreach activities that address environmental and climate change injustices, while also offering students unique experiential learning opportunities.

Human health and the environment are inextricably linked, and the UC Davis Institute of the Environment is pursuing the interdisciplinary answers required to make real progress on improving the health of the environment and of millions of people around the world.

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