A hotter future has arrived-and Canada is not ready


Two weeks ago, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choice released a Report on the impact of climate change on public health And the need to take action to adapt to the new reality of extreme threats.

“Climate change,” Ian Calbert, executive director of the Public Health Association of Canada, wrote in the introduction to the report, “is an escalating public health emergency, and we need to start treating it this way.”

The historic and deadly heat wave in British Columbia made these words frighteningly true-even after it caused forest fires Destroyed most of the village of Lytton, British Columbia.

“Due to past emissions, we are now committed to warming the world to a certain extent,” Ryan Niss, director of adaptation research at the institute and co-author of the report, said in an interview on Friday.

“So while it is absolutely critical to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much and as quickly as possible in the long run to prevent things from getting worse, we can no longer avoid a certain degree of climate change. And the real solution to this problem The only way is to prepare for, adapt and become more adaptable to this kind of climate change.”

This means coping with the increased risk of floods and forest fires. This also means considering how climate change will threaten the health of Canadians.

A hotter and more dangerous world

Adaptation will require the government to take greater action—and learn some lessons from another public health crisis that we have been fighting against for the past year and a half.

The Institute’s report estimates that by the middle of this century, the economic, social, and health care costs associated with several impacts of climate change (ground-level ozone (smog), high temperatures, and the spread of Lyme disease) will increase in the billions of dollars. , Even in the case of “low emission”. If emissions are not reduced, damage and costs will only increase.

But because some costs are difficult to predict, the researchers did not model all potential impacts—for example, the impact on mental health, or the impact of poor air quality due to wildfires, or weather-related threats to healthcare facilities.

On Tuesday, August 1, 2017, a man stands on a boat while fishing on Kamloops Lake, west of Kamloops, British Columbia. Smoke from a wildfire fills the air. (Darryl Dyke/Canada Press)

This summer in Canada may be remembered for its record-breaking deadly high temperature.But it follows the same deadly wave Montreal in 2018. The future will only bring more heat.

The report pointed out that from 1971 to 2000, about 50 days of temperature per year in Ontario and Manitoba were high enough to cause high-temperature-related deaths. The Institute estimates that by the 2050s, the annual total will increase by 1.5 times.

The extra heat will bring more people into the hospital. The report specifically targets coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes, and estimates that the hospitalization rate associated with high temperature under low-emission scenarios has increased by 21%.

On Friday, July 10, 2020, during the previous period of temperature soaring, Nancy Fisher was filming at a homeless camp in Toronto. (Chris Young/Canada Press)

And there will be more deaths: The report estimates that by the middle of this century, 200 to 425 people will die from high temperatures in Canada each year.

The institute did find that two measures to renovate buildings would reduce the number of deaths. The report stated: “If by the 2050s, 25% of Canadian households have installed sunshade technology, the annual death toll will be reduced by an average of 21 people.” “If by the 2050s, 50% of residential, commercial and institutional buildings will be installed. With a green roof, an average of 46 deaths can be avoided every year.”

However, while green roofs and shading may reduce the effects of generally higher temperatures, these measures are not necessarily sufficient to protect people from extreme events.

“When it comes to these extreme high temperature emergency situations, a response system really needs to be in place to be able to identify the people most affected by this and provide them with the care they need, whether it’s a cooling center, whether it’s medical care, or away from the street. Place,” Nath said.

“In the long run, it is important to address the root causes that make some people more vulnerable than others. Because it is not ordinary people who may die from the heat wave. It is the living people on the street, and some people can’t get all the money. Need medical care and suffer from pre-existing health problems, or older people don’t have the support they need in these situations to help them.”

What should the pandemic teach us

The British Columbia Coroner said many of the 300 people who died suddenly in the recent heat wave in British Columbia Elderly people living in poorly ventilated homes.

This is a disturbing echo of what happened in this country during the current pandemic. When COVID-19 arrives, the elderly who live in inadequate long-term care facilities suffer the most.

Throughout the pandemic, low-income and racialized Canadians with higher infection rates are usually forced to accept the greatest risk as “essential workers.” The climate choice report clearly pointed out that climate change is likely to exacerbate existing inequalities.

On Monday, December 7, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, a caregiver took a person from the Revera Westside Long-Term Care Home. (Nathan Dennett/Canada Press)

These vulnerabilities need to be considered when dealing with climate change-but reducing or eliminating these differences in general will also create a society that is better prepared to withstand the pressures of climate change.

“Before these things happen, it is very important to address vulnerabilities and provide people with resources and the best opportunities to achieve good health,” Nass said.

Although the focus now may be on heat, Ness pointed out that deteriorating air quality may cause some problems, making the effects of high temperatures “dwarfed.”

The Federal Liberal Government has pledged to develop a national adaptation strategy – despite Recent reports from the International Institute for Sustainable Development Note that Canada lags behind some European countries in this planning.

The federal government has also pledged to provide billions of dollars in funding for disaster mitigation, infrastructure improvements, and public reports (including the recently released “National Issue Report“Regarding the impact of climate change on Canada. But the Climate Choice Institute found that only 3% of the climate adaptation funds announced in the most recent budget are dedicated to public health.

Although adapting may now stand out- New alliance Of insurance companies and environmental organizations have joined forces to promote federal action—it usually ranks second in public discussions surrounding climate change, perhaps for some reason. It is far better to mitigate future climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions than just learning to accept its impact.

However, the world has long passed the point where a certain degree of dangerous climate change can be avoided. We no longer need to look to the future to imagine the look and feel of this change. The climate crisis is here.



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