A Canadian-born baby today will never know a time when his health does not run the risk of global warming, an annual review of climate change and human health announced Wednesday.
The response of the Lancet medical journal on health and climate change in 2019 has serious warnings about the kind of world we may leave to future generations.
"The life of every child born today will be deeply affected by climate change," the report said.
"Without accelerated intervention, this new era will come to define people's health at every stage of their lives."
In some of the hottest and poorest countries in the world, malnutrition will increase, while in a country like Canada, air pollution, heat-related illnesses and exposure to toxic forest fire smoke are major threats to the long-term health of the child. Warm world means widespread disease transmission, as well as political clashes that come with mass migration as some parts of the world become uninhabited.
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Dr Courtney Howard, a Knollknife-based emergency doctor who helped retire a Canadian briefing paper from the main report, said encouraging the world to do more to slow global warming is crucial because, at a certain point, we will not be able to adapt to the impacts. But she said more needs to be done to adjust to the impacts we are already seeing.
For example, she notes, the Fort McMurray Hospital, Alta, had to be evacuated within hours of massive fires scattered throughout the city in 2017. But most hospitals, including hers, have no plan to respond to similar circumstances.
"Do we know how to evacuate quickly?" She asked. "It's not something we covered in my emergency training, but it's certainly something we need to cover now."
READ MORE: Staff praise how they handled evacuation at Fort McMurray Hospital
During the fires, most people are advised to stay indoors, but she said the advice was developed when the fire lasted only a few days. In 2017, some regions saw that advice daily for more than two months, which meant isolation that brought about unexpected mental health problems. She also said smoke would eventually enter a home exposed to him for days on end.
Adapting buildings to have better ventilation systems and to prepare communities for trauma to evacuations are also crucial, Howard said.
The number of Canadians exposed directly to forest fires averaged 35,300 between 2001 and 2004, but 54,100 between 2015 and 2018. That number does not include those exposed to fire smoke, which adds to cardiovascular risks and lung disease.
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Between 1980 and 2017, 448,444 Canadians were forced to flee their homes due to fires, but more than half of these evacuations occurred after 2010.
Globally in 2018, 220 million senior citizens have experienced at least one heat wave, breaking the previous record set three years earlier by 209 million. Consequences of increased exposure to extreme heat include heat stress, heat stroke, kidney disease, exacerbation of heart failure, and increased risks of violence.
Fort McMurray Hospital evacuated
There is also an economic price for these events. In the United States, for example, heat waves have become so pronounced in 2018 that even one fifth of the daylight hours in the southern states have become unproductive hours for outdoor workers in industries such as agriculture and construction.
Hotter climates are also suitable for transmitting diseases. Nine of the 10 most suitable years for dengue fever have occurred since 2000. The number of days suitable for the spread of the pathogen causing diarrhea has doubled since 1980. In Canada, ticks march on their way north.
Lancet notes that if we now intervene to warm up and find ways to adapt, savings in the health system and economic productivity down the road will in many places outweigh the costs of paying for those interventions.
READ MORE: More than 11,000 scientists proclaim global emergency climate in signed letter
This year's report shows that health care workers are accepting their responsibility for global warming. Canadian briefings indicate that the health system is responsible for more than four percent of Canada's emissions.
Howard said it's a bit of a hatred because he hasn't turned his attention to his own industry so far.
"Following an example is one of the best ways to create change," she said.
© 2019 Canadian Press