Backgrounder: Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate


February 2022

The report Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing Our Knowledge for Action assesses the latest research and informs Canadians about how climate change affects their health. It details the effects of climate change on health and health systems, the populations most at risk, and how health care systems are adapting to climate change.

This assessment is the first comprehensive study of current and projected risks from climate change to the health of Canadians since 2008. It was developed by a team of more than 80 experts from across Canada. It addresses the evolving knowledge needed by government decision makers, civil society organizations, and individual Canadians by providing evidence-based information to help people understand how Canada's climate is changing, and the effects on health and health systems, including implications for those most at risk.

Climate change is already affecting the health of Canadians and concerted action is required to ensure that they can stay healthy and well despite growing risks to individuals and health systems. Climate-related hazards such as extreme heat events, wildfires, floods, ice storms and droughts continue to affect communities across Canada—sometimes with very severe impacts on health and well-being. The warming climate is also increasing risks from infectious diseases, and effects on food and water safety and security.

Key topics in this report include:

  • Information on how Canada's climate is changing and is projected to continue to change, and the growing threats to health;
  • Risks to the health of Canadians from impacts on water quality, safety and security;
  • Impacts of climate change on food safety and security;
  • Current impacts of climate change on the health of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and communities and examples of adaptations being implemented;
  • How natural hazards such as floods, storms and droughts are affected by climate change, and their impacts on the health of Canadians;
  • Current evidence of the mental health impacts of climate variability and change on Canadians;
  • Links between climate change and air quality in Canada, including how the health of populations could be affected by changes in air quality under various climate scenarios;
  • Impacts of climate change on risks from infectious diseases of importance for public health in Canada, including risks from current, known diseases (e.g., Lyme disease, West Nile virus) and new risks that may emerge;
  • How factors and trends at the individual, community, and health system levels can raise or lower the risks of climate change to the health of Canadians;
  • Why rapidly scaling up adaptation is a key response to climate change impacts on the health of Canadians and the health systems they rely upon;
  • The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in efforts to realize health co-benefits and more resilient Canadians and health systems.

This assessment builds on previous scientific studies and reports on risks to the health of Canadians so that government decision makers, health practitioners, researchers and individual Canadians can take effective measures to protect Canadians' health now and to prepare for future impacts.

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