Massachusetts Department of Public Health seal Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking

Climate Change

The information available on these climate change webpages supports efforts by local health and municipal partners to address the environmental and community health impacts of climate change.

There is widespread agreement among climate scientists that the climate is changing. Massachusetts is already experiencing the effects of climate change, from hotter summers and rising sea levels to more frequent severe weather events and inland flooding.

Climate impacts are predicted to:

  • increase the number of very hot days and degrade air quality
  • compromise infrastructure, homes and buildings
  • increase the risk of injuries and fatalities from storm events
  • increase the risk of food and drinking water contamination
  • increase vector-borne illnesses.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy show how extreme weather events and economic stress can negatively affect mental health by increasing the risk of anxiety, depression, and traumatization. Vulnerable populations — especially those with pre-existing health problems (e.g., asthma, cardiovascular disease), limited resources, and in close proximity to areas of greater risk (e.g., flood zones, living on the coast) — are most at risk for climate-related impacts.

Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report

Massachusetts has been leading the nation in addressing ways to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building a clean energy economy, and pro-actively preparing for the public health threats and challenges posed by a changing climate. In May 2009, the Secretary of Massachusetts' Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) created the Climate Change Advisory Committee, under the authority provided in the state's 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The GWSA requires limits on statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a study to identify strategies to reduce climate-related impacts. The Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report, completed in 2011, provides a road map for developing practical strategies to adapt to the predicted changes in climate across all major sectors of the Commonwealth. DPH/BEH was a key participant in this project. For more information, please access the full report at Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Report.

Executive Order Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth

In September 2016, Governor Baker signed an Executive Order to provide further support for implementing the requirements of GWSA by establishing an integrated climate change strategy for the Commonwealth. The Order requires the Secretaries of Energy and Environmental Affairs and Public Safety work together to (1) develop a framework for each Executive Office to assess its agencies’ vulnerability to climate change within one year, and identify adaptation options; (2) publish a Climate Adaptation Plan that includes a statewide adaptation strategy within two years; and (3) provide technical assistance to communities to help them prepare for climate change.

DPH is working with other state agencies to integrate the requirements of the Executive Order into the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, due in September 2018. You can track the progress of this effort on resilientma.com.

DPH’s Program to Strengthen Local Health Response to Climate Change

As reported in the MA Climate Change Adaptation Report, evidence indicates that the health effects of climate change will be most evident at the local level. While the public health infrastructure in Massachusetts is relatively well-established, climate change is expected to increase resource burdens for local health and municipal partners in effectively addressing the wide range of potential health impacts. To begin to support local health planning efforts, DPH established a Program to Strengthen Local Health Response to Climate Change (See Climate and Health Summary). 

The initial phase of our effort supported by funds from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs) Climate and Health Program was to assess the capacity of local health departments in Massachusetts to address the health impacts of climate change. The assessment found that there is an overall belief that local health departments throughout Massachusetts are unprepared and lack resources and/or expertise to adequately respond to extreme weather events and other climate-related health impacts. The assessment recommended that DPH support increased capacity, training, and technical assistance for local health departments and government officials to better integrate public health into planning, preparedness, and adaptation strategies at the local level. For more information on the statewide capacity survey, please access the Climate Change Final Report.

Additional support from CDC provided resources for DPH to strengthen local health response to climate impacts by carrying out the following activities:

  • Collaborate Across Jurisdictions, Programs, and Organizations Focused on Climate Change

    DPH is working with state agency partners through the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) Adaptation Subcommittee, local health departments, federal agencies, and new partners to support data/information sharing, joint training opportunities, and adaptation planning strategies.

  • Implement CDCs BRACE Framework graph of Building Resilience Against Climate Effects

    Long description of graph of BRACE: Building Resilience Against Climate Effects

    1. Forecasting climate impacts and assessing vulnerabilities
    2. Projecting the disease burden
    3. Assessing public health interventions
    4. Developing and implementing a climate and health adaption plan
    5. Evaluating impact and improving quality of activities

    DPH is implementing the steps of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC's) Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework to support local health efforts to prepare for the health implications of climate change (See Climate and Health Profiles, Climate and Health Pathways, and Vulnerable Residents and Areas.)

  • Sponsor trainings for local health departments to prepare for climate effects in their community

Share this page