Investing in climate resilience benefits people, planet

Kari Nadeau gives TEDxBoston talk
Kari Nadeau gives TEDxBoston talk

January 9, 2024 – Extreme weather events caused by climate change are costing trillions of dollars in damages, but making investments to boost climate resilience would both save money in the long run and protect people’s health, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Kari Nadeau.

Nadeau, chair of the Department of Environmental Health and John Rock Professor of Climate and Population Studies, spoke about the benefits of investing in climate resilience in a December 21, 2023, TEDxBoston talk.

“If you were to invest $1 in climate change resilience solutions you could get at least $6 out in health benefits,” she said. “That’s a fantastic deal.”

Nadeau spoke about the benefits of four types of climate resilience solutions—preparedness, infrastructure, biodiversity, and social support.

In the preparedness realm, for example, making building materials more resistant to wildfires could protect against loss and damages, Nadeau said. She also cited a climate toolkit—created by doctors working at Harvard Chan School’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE)—that can help community health workers better protect their patients during disasters such as extreme heat, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods.

Infrastructure investments that help reduce reliance on fossil fuels—such as creating more charging stations for electric vehicles and better protecting the electric grid against extreme weather conditions—can help minimize air pollution that kills roughly seven million people each year, Nadeau said.

In the biodiversity realm, increasing the tree canopy could decrease heat-related illnesses in urban areas. Trees also help sequester carbon, Nadeau noted.

As for social support, Nadeau spoke about the importance of fostering open discourse and transparency about climate change solutions, and of providing to families and communities that are inequitably exposed to environmental justice issues.

She added, “There’s no time to waste. Climate resilience solutions are vital to human health and planetary health. Act now. It’s worth it.”

Watch Nadeau’s TEDxBoston talk: Investing in resilience is a great deal for people and the climate