Health Canada releases assessment report on effects of climate change on health
February 9, 2022 | Ottawa, Ontario | Health Canada
The price of climate change is real. This crisis has already taken lives in extreme heat waves, and is increasing risks to Canadians from flooding, and from respiratory illnesses like asthma. Bold, urgent action is not only needed – the science is clear that it will make a real difference. 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.
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister Health, today announced the release of Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action which will help inform policy development focused on protecting Canadians from the effects of climate change.
The report provides a comprehensive assessment of the latest research on how climate-related hazards, including extreme heat events, wildfires, floods, and ice storms are affecting our health and wellbeing. This reports also documents the increasing risks from infectious diseases and from climate impacts on food and water safety and security. Additionally, the report includes new information on Indigenous health impacts, mental health, health equity, and health system resilience, which has not been the focus of past assessment reports.
The report findings will help the Government of Canada and other decision makers be more prepared for the health effects of climate change and take action to reduce risks as well as to empower individuals to protect themselves and their loved ones.
In developing the report, Health Canada engaged experts from academic, government, and non‑governmental organizations across Canada, who assessed and synthesized knowledge from peer‑reviewed literature, government reports, and Indigenous-led studies.
The report is part of Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action, a collaborative national assessment process led by Natural Resources Canada, which forms the foundation for the ambitious action needed as the federal government develops Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy.
“Climate change continues to negatively impact the health and wellbeing of Canadians, however we know that some communities are more vulnerable than others. The report’s new findings on Indigenous health impacts, health equity and mental health, amongst others, will help us ensure that our adaptation strategies are efficient and equitable. I also want to thank all of the experts who contributed to this new source of knowledge which will help inform our government’s action on climate change adaptation.”
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
“It is clear that concerns about climate change have increased the stresses on the mental health of Canadians. With more than 7.5 million Canadians experiencing mental illness each year, and over half of Canadians reporting worsening mental health this past year, our government will continue to work with all jurisdictions across Canada to enhance greater access to mental health services for Canadians as we fight the climate emergency. This report clearly lays out that more needs to be done, and we are committed to supporting Canadians as we continue to face the adverse effects of climate change.”
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
“Climate change is not only an environmental issue, it also magnifies existing inequalities and vulnerabilities across Indigenous communities. The impacts of climate change continue to disproportionately threaten Indigenous Peoples’ safety and security. As Indigenous Peoples hold a spiritual connection to the land, their traditional knowledge and input are essential to advancing innovative climate change adaptation actions that will protect Indigenous communities from climate hazards.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
“The science is clear—climate change is increasing risks to our country’s health systems. We must take bold and urgent adaptation action to protect the health of Canadians and build resiliency to the impacts of climate change in our health systems. This report will help inform Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy, which will be released this year.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Natural Resources
“This report makes abundantly clear the rising costs of climate change on our health, our environment and our economy. The costly impacts of climate change are driving changes across society – from how we build our communities, to how global markets operate, how we travel, and how we protect public health. Canada has the opportunity to be a leader in this global movement. Our Government has an ambitious pollution reduction plan, and we’re developing a National Adaptation Strategy to better protect our communities.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“Farmers have made important gains in sustainable agriculture and take great care of their land. Now is the time to double-down to improve our resilience to the effects of climate change and contribute to our emission reduction goals. This is what consumers are asking for and where our trading partners are going. This year our Government launched over half a billion dollars in new programming to help farmers adopt sustainable practices and clean technologies. Through our Strengthened Climate Plan and the Food Policy for Canada, we are working to reduce environmental impacts and enhance the climate resilience of our food systems, today, and for future generations.”
The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Adaptation means adjusting our decisions, behaviours and activities to account for existing or expected changes in climate. Adaptation measures can be taken either before or after we experience the effects of a changing climate.
- Seniors, children, racialized populations, low-income individuals, individuals with chronic health conditions, and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples often experience greater health impacts of climate change.
- Given the current high costs of mental illness to society, and the breadth of mental health impacts related to climate change, future financial costs will increase without greater adaptation.
- 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.
- 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 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 is increasing risks to health systems in Canada and can disrupt care and services when Canadians need them during extreme weather and natural disasters.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions within and outside of the health sector can have significant immediate and long-term co-benefits for health; the economic value of the health co-benefits can help to offset the implementation costs of measures.
Backgrounder: Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action
Map of Adaptation Actions
Canadian Centre for Climate Services
Canada in a Changing Climate: Advancing our Knowledge for Action
Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan: Healthy Environment and a Health Economy
Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy
Office of Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
Office of Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
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