Measuring the impact of climate change, to many, is still seen as something ‘we’ll get to shortly’. But a new report by Health Canada is showing that, not only are the impacts already measurable, we can see some very clear climate change effects on Canadians’ health. And we can see them right now.
The full report is entitled Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action and will help inform policy development focused on protecting Canadians from the effects of climate change.
The report takes a large-scale look into the latest research on how climate-related hazards, including extreme heat events, wildfires, floods, and ice storms are affecting our health and wellbeing, from infectious diseases to food and water safety and security.
Not only this, the report goes into the latest data on Indigenous health impacts, mental health, health equity, and health system resilience, which has been less prevalent in past assessment reports.
Part of Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action, a collaborative national assessment process led by Natural Resources Canada, the report forms part of the foundation for the ambitious action needed as the federal government develops Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy.
In an effort to summarize the report, here are some of the key findings illustrating the current health effects being experienced by Canadians:
Climate Change and Food Availability
Climate change is projected to affect global food availability, as rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, extreme weather, droughts and rising sea levels could all directly damage crops and decrease yields.
Climate Change and Infectious Diseases
Climate change is affecting the risk of infectious diseases in Canada. The recent rapid emergence of Lyme disease has been driven by climate warming, making more of Canada suitable for the ticks that carry the disease.
Climate Change, Indigenous Communities & Water Availability
In many Indigenous communities, climate change is affecting the availability and quality of fresh water, traditional foods and key resources that affect emotional, mental and spiritual health and well-being and contribute to the disruption and denigration of cultures, knowledge and ways of life. Indigenous Peoples are leaders in climate change adaptation, policy and research, and are working with partners to adapt to climate change in their communities.
Climate Change and Risk to Health Systems
Climate change is increasing risks to health systems in Canada, which can disrupt care and services when Canadians need them during extreme weather and natural disasters.
Our Adaptation to Climate Change
According to the report, many of these health impacts can be prevented by scaling up efforts to adapt to climate change in an intersectional manner—both in Canadian society at large and in health systems. Strong adaptation measures can prevent potential health impacts and make health systems and facilities more resilient to climate change.
These measures can be taken either before or after we experience the effects of a changing climate, and we’ll keep our readers posted on sustainability, and specific initiatives Canadian businesses and government, as well as the international community, are taking.