Observed and projected changes to the climate (e.g. more/less precipitation and higher temperatures) can pose significant health risks to the residents of Arizona. As in other locations in the Southwest, across the United States, and around the world, these changes are likely to coincide with an increased frequency of drought, flooding, severe heat events, and wildfires; and disruption of civil infrastructure, including transportation, energy, and water systems. These impacts can lead directly to illness and death and are likely to worsen existing health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses. A number of other factors are expected to compound these health issues.
Achieving air quality goals may be more difficult because of changes in the emission rates of ozone precursors including nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), along with changes in meteorological conditions that facilitate high pollutant concentrations. Additionally, the timing and potency of aeroallergens may be hastened and increased. Finally, vector-borne illnesses carried by insects (i.e., mosquitos, mites, and ticks) are likely to become increasingly widespread. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework (Figure A) to provide local health officials with a mechanism for addressing climate-related public health effects and to support the creation of regional public health adaptation and mitigation efforts. The framework uses the principles of adaptive management to achieve these goals.
This report addresses Step 1 of the framework, focusing on two climate-related hazards and associated health impacts of major importance to Arizona—extreme heat events and air pollution. The frequency and intensity of extreme heat events already are increasing in the state and this trend is expected to continue. Likewise, under some future climate scenarios, ozone formation and accumulation are expected to increase (Weaver et al. 2009; Kim et al. 2015). Furthermore, historical monitoring of air pollution, especially ozone and coarse particulate matter (PM10), has identified these pollutants as a problem in the state. This report describes the link between these hazards and human health outcomes, and identifies the segments of the population that would be at-risk or vulnerable to their effects. The work involved extracting downscaled climate projections for Arizona and identifying populations vulnerable to extreme heat and poor air quality. Further work will include projecting future public health burdens, identifying mitigating measures, evaluating their cost-effectiveness, and developing an adaptation plan. Flood- and drought-related hazards will also be analyzed. Throughout these activities, Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and the project team will evaluate the framework’s effectiveness and revise their efforts, as needed.