Sunday , May 16 2021

Climate change put Canada's health at risk, say doctors

A new report from one of the world's most prestigious medical journals says Canada's failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not just killing the planet, but killing the Canadians.

The Climate Change Impact Report on Health, released Wednesday in Lancet, concludes that successfully dealing with climate change will be the biggest thing governments can do to improve human health in this century.

The chronic exposure to air pollution from GHG activities contributes to the deaths of some 7,142 Canadians a year and 2.1 million people worldwide, the report said.

Heat waves, forest fires, floods and large storms cause more deaths and long-term illnesses, but little data is available for how much.

The first recommendation in the report is to simply monitor the number of diseases and deaths associated with heat in Canada, something that has not been done in most provinces.

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In 2018, the forest fires season is the most radical in California at record levels, with a total of 7,579 fires.

Last summer, public health authorities in Quebec said 90 people were killed during a heat wave. South and East Ontario suffered the same heat, but Ontario did not follow deaths related to death, so no one knew how many people were affected in the province.

Dr. Courtney Howard, an emergency doctor from Zolcnfeef, who wrote the Canadian part of the report, said that now the world is at a pace to increase the temperature to which we can not adapt, resulting in more deaths and diseases.

The average surface temperature in the world is already about 1 C warmer than it was in the pre-industrial era, and if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at current levels, the increase will be between 2.6 and 4.8 degrees to the end of the century, she said.

"We are not sure that we can adapt to it in a way that we can maintain the same civilization stability and health care systems that we are used to," Howard said.

"We are talking not only about maintaining disease levels, but talking about our ability to provide health care."

The particulate matter particles in the air cause premature deaths from heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, acute respiratory infections, and chronic lung disease. More frequent heat waves contribute to heat stroke and more intense pollen season, which can aggravate allergies and asthma, as can forest fires.

"We are not sure that we can adapt to it in a way that we can maintain the same civilization stability and health care systems that we are accustomed to" Dr. Courtney Howard, an emergency doctor from Zholnich.

Warmer temperatures also help insects progress, meaning more bug-borne diseases. The incidence of Lyme disease, which carries ticks, increased by 50 percent only in 2017.

Howard said the new term appearing in mental health professionals was "eco-anxiety," describing mental stress caused by climate-related changes – or even just the threat that could arise.

Public health officials will have to adjust their responses to dangers such as forest fires, as increased intensity and frequency of fires mean that more communities have bad air for much longer time, said Howard.

Most health authorities will advise people to stay indoors on smoke-free days, but when these periods last several weeks, this is not a viable solution.

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Floods are also on the rise.

"This is an emergency"

In San Francisco this month, smoke from wildfires made the air part of the world's most dangerous. Doctors told people to stay and wear masks if they absolutely must go outdoors.

Howard said things are ongoing in order to improve the prognosis of smoke, so people can tell them when they can expect to get outdoors and get exercise and sunlight during extended smoke alerts.

She said the last few years have warned Canadians about how climate change will look, with record forest fires in Britain in 2017 and 2018, the droughts of the prairies, heat waves in central Canada and flooding in communities almost from coast to coast. She said that some people think this is normal – but it's not.

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"It will be worse in 10 years," she said.

Howard said that if we do not step up our efforts, the change in the world will be massive, including more wars and migration.

"I am an emergency doctor and I am working on this, because this is an emergency," she said.

Both the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association say they agree with the findings and recommendations of the Lancet.

"Healthcare professionals see first-hand the catastrophic health effects of our climate change," said Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association.

"From the fires to heat the waves of new infectious diseases, we already treat the health effects of climate change," she said.

"This is the public health imperative of our time."

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