Sixth Annual NC BREATHE Conference to Seek Climate Change Solutions that Advance Health and Equity in North Carolina

March 31, 2021

Andrew Whelan, Clean Air Carolina, (919) 408-7031, [email protected]
Stephanie Johannes, Clean Air Carolina, (704) 307-9528, ext. 111, [email protected]


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Policymakers, community groups, medical professionals, and environmental advocates will participate in NC BREATHE 2021 next week to consider the disproportionate health impacts climate change has on vulnerable communities in North Carolina. Organized by Clean Air Carolina, the two-day conference will be held virtually on Tuesday, April 6, and Wednesday, April 7, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM each day.

Conference attendees will discuss strategies to reduce the emissions driving climate change, and to increase the resilience of North Carolina’s communities and health systems to climate impacts.

“We cannot allow Black and Brown communities to bear the full brunt of the climate crisis. The NC BREATHE conference will highlight programs and policies that will put health, equity, and justice at the center of North Carolina’s climate strategy,” said June Blotnick, Executive Director of Clean Air Carolina.

The conference will focus on key topics at the intersection of climate, equity, and health, such as environmental racism and urban heat islands; challenges and opportunities for healthcare delivery in the context of a changing climate; strategies to track and treat the mental health effects of extreme weather; and building capacity for climate resilience in tribal communities.

Featured speakers at NC BREATHE 2021 include North Carolina State Senator DeAndrea Salvador; William Barber III of the Climate Reality Project; Marilynn Marsh-Robinson of the Environmental Defense Fund; and Jeremy Tarr, Senior Advisor for Climate Change Policy to Gov. Roy Cooper. Photojournalist Cornell Watson will also premiere his latest photo series centered on issues of environmental justice in Warren County, NC, the birthplace of the environmental justice movement.

“Our state is facing multiple climate threats, but not all North Carolinians will be impacted equally. It’s a critical time to rethink local resilience by elevating the voices of our most underserved residents to ensure the health and well-being of all North Carolinians,” said Dr. Jennifer Runkle, environmental epidemiology scholar at the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies and a panelist at NC BREATHE 2021.

Severe heat waves, rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns that cause flooding and droughts, intense hurricanes, and poorer air quality all have adverse effects on human health, including heat-related illnesses, respiratory problems, and vector-borne diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes. Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately harmed by these changing weather patterns, and also have fewer resources that could allow them to adapt to climate-driven economic shocks.

“The climate crisis is extremely costly, in terms of both damage to human lives and a heavy economic burden that climate-fueled health problems like extreme heat, coastal storms, and air pollution impose on vulnerable communities in North Carolina and far beyond. We need ambitious actions now to cut climate-changing pollution and prepare people and communities for these urgent health threats — we can’t afford anything less,” said Dr. Vijay Limaye, Climate and Health Scientist at NRDC and the closing speaker for the first day of NC BREATHE 2021.

This will be the sixth annual NC BREATHE conference, following a one-year hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to Clean Air Carolina, NC BREATHE 2021 is being co-sponsored by the Duke University Environmental Health Scholars Program, Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments (CISA), O2 Group Ventures, the North Carolina Climate Office, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Mecklenburg County Medical Society, and Health Care Without Harm.

NC BREATHE 2021 is free to attend. Those interested in learning more and registering for the conference should go to


Clean Air Carolina is a statewide nonprofit organization advocating for the health of all North Carolinians by pursuing equitable and collaborative solutions that address climate change and air pollution.

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