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New Initiative

Climate Change and Health Care

The effects of climate change are apparent everywhere. Americans see the impact in their daily lives through extreme temperatures, degraded air quality, and more frequent and intense climate shocks like floods, heat waves, and droughts. Without concerted action, these effects will only increase in scale and frequency.

Climate change negatively impacts population health in many ways: heat-related adverse medical events and deaths, respiratory complications and chronic diseases linked to poor air quality, and increased exposure to waterborne and vector-borne illnesses. It also can cause anxiety, depression, and grief — even posttraumatic stress disorder. Climate events can cripple health systems and disrupt the provision of care, in both the short and long term. All these negative effects disproportionately impact people of color, people with low income, older adults, people with disabilities, and children. Climate change is a health crisis and an equity crisis.

Health care is part of the problem. The U.S. health system accounts for 8.5 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions — a larger percentage than any other country. Health care organizations have both the opportunity and obligation to reduce emissions that come with the industry’s size, its large carbon footprint, and its mission to improve health. Indeed, effective strategies for addressing climate change are essential attributes of a high-performing health system.

The Commonwealth Fund’s Climate Change and Health Care initiative seeks to promote the decarbonization of the U.S. health care system.

For more information, email Lovisa Gustafsson, Vice President, Controlling Health Care Costs, at [email protected].

2024 Program Funding Priorities

  • Help health systems take advantage of funding opportunities in the Inflation Reduction Act to support a resilient and renewable health system
  • Support the health care safety net and low-resourced hospitals in reducing their environmental footprint

Of particular interest are projects that combine these two priorities — helping safety-net providers access funding opportunities available through the IRA to advance a sustainable health system


Our Expert

Lovisa Gustafsson

Vice President, Controlling Health Care Costs