New York State Department of Health Recognizes Climate Week, September 17 – 23

New York State Responds to Climate Change to Protect New Yorkers' Health

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 19, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health recognizes Climate Week, September 17 – 23, with information and resources for individuals and communities on how our changing climate affects public health and how to prepare for more extreme weather.

"We know that climate change can adversely affect public health as we recently saw with the Eastern Canadian wildfire smoke that made its way to New York State causing an increase in asthma-related emergency department visits," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The Department is committed to addressing climate change and reducing health risks for all New Yorkers through initiatives such as the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) program and investments in clean energy under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act), so that we may proactively and cooperatively face this public health challenge head on."

Human activities, such as burning coal, oil, or gas for energy, clearing forests, and certain farming practices increase levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and cause rising temperatures, warming oceans, and rising sea levels.

Climate change increases the risk of illness, injury and death. For example, droughts and severe floods can affect drinking water quality, food safety, and cause indoor air quality issues such as mold. Extreme heat and extreme cold increase the risk of serious health problems, including heat stroke or hypothermia, and can worsen chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.

Not all New York State communities experience climate change in the same way. In some areas, temperatures may increase while they decrease in others. Increases in temperature also affect the air pollution levels in New York State communities. Extreme weather, such as heat waves, droughts, torrential rain, and hurricanes, may also happen more frequently in some communities than others.

New York State's BRACE program works to reduce the risks of climate change on public health. The program is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Climate Ready States and Cities Initiative and uses the BRACE Framework to develop and implement strategies that increase resiliency at the state and local level. BRACE projects and initiatives include:

  1. Studying the impact of climate and weather on health.
  2. Developing tools and resources that support public health professions in their efforts to address climate change in their communities. For example, the Heat Vulnerability Index can be used to identify areas with larger populations of people who may be at higher risk for heat related illness.
  3. Partnering with the NYS Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) and local health departments to promote climate-related public health efforts at the local level.
  4. Supporting climate justice and health equity through partnerships such as with the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance's (OTDA) Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to promote its Heating and Cooling Assistance Benefit Program to eligible New Yorkers. Staff also participate on the Climate Justice Working Group, which works to help ensure that disadvantaged communities benefit from the state's transition to cleaner, greener sources of energy, reduced pollution and cleaner air, and economic opportunities.

Additionally, BRACE and other Department programs support ongoing state initiatives to address climate change and protect New Yorkers, including the following:

  1. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act), which was passed in July of 2019, is among the most ambitious climate laws in the nation. The Climate Act aims to reduce greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 40% by 2030 and at least 85% by 2050 by increasing renewable energy use and ensuring all communities equitably benefit in the clean energy transition.
  2. New York State's Extreme Heat Action Plan identifies and supports initiatives to keep residents safe and prepare communities for rising temperatures.
  3. New York State's emergency preparedness programs protect New Yorkers, their property, and our economic well-being from emergencies and disasters.

When making decisions and taking action, the Department encourages local governments to consider the risks of climate change on the health of their communities, especially those who are more vulnerable. This includes decisions about land use or local services, notification systems for weather-related emergencies, the use of cooling centers and emergency response plans, and local programs that encourage residents to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Department recommends that individuals learn more about climate change so that they can be prepared for everything from extreme storms to insect-borne illnesses.

For additional information and community resources about climate change and health, visit