Risks to health from climate change

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Health risks of climate change

Climate change is affecting health, and will continue to affect health in the future. People in Canada face a wide range of risks that vary from region to region because of Canada's large land mass.

The extent of these risks depends on:

Direct and indirect health risks

Climate change poses direct and indirect health risks. Direct health risks result from climate-related exposures, often associated with hazards such as:

Indirect health risks are related to environmental and social factors that influence how climate change affects individuals and communities. These factors can either:

These environmental and social factors impact:

Health risks of climate change may:

We have identified key categories of climate-related risks, and the potential effects these can have on the health and well-being of people in Canada.

Weather-related natural hazards

Climate change influences the frequency and intensity of natural hazards, including:

These hazards can cause:

If they are severe enough, they often:

The health effects of natural hazards can be serious. They include:

Factors that affect whether you and your family are affected, and how badly, include:

Canada has many recent examples of severe impacts from these hazards on the health and safety of people in Canada, including:

There are effective ways to address each specific hazard. Health authorities, community organizations, municipalities, provinces and the federal government are already using many of these actions. Health authorities can use climate change adaptation to reduce health risks to populations at highest risk of harm from climate change impacts.

Water quality and security

Climate change is expected to result in changes in precipitation and temperature resulting in:

This will put pressures on:

The extent and intensity of these changes will vary by region and season.

Water-related health risks associated with climate change include:

Not all people in Canada will experience these impacts equally. Communities at greater risk include:

Food safety and security

Climate change increases risks of food insecurity by:

Precipitation, temperature, and extreme weather events are projected to increase the introduction of pathogens (living things that cause disease) to food that can cause illness. These pathogens may be viruses, bacteria or parasites.

Floods and droughts may introduce chemical contaminants that have harmful health effects into Canada's food systems.

Not all people in Canada will experience the impacts of climate change on food security and food safety equally. Communities more likely to experience the most severe effects include:

Climate change is affecting Indigenous food systems and contributing to declining availability, accessibility and quality of traditionally harvested foods. Such foods play an important role in community and individual health and well-being. Climate change has already affected nutrition, mental health outcomes and food sovereignty in many Indigenous communities.

Indigenous food security must be understood within the context of historical and ongoing colonialism. Indigenous self-determination and the gendered and intergenerational transmission of Indigenous knowledge are central to Indigenous food security and sovereignty and needed adaptation actions.

Air quality

Climate change is closely linked to air quality. Climate change is affecting air quality in Canada, and several air pollutants contribute to climate change. Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of health problems.

A warming climate is expected to worsen air quality levels in Canada. For example, climate change will:

Climate change can also affect indoor air quality when:

People at increased risk of health impacts related to air pollution due to climate change include:

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can have health benefits related to improved air quality.

Mental health impacts of climate change

Climate change increases risks to the mental health and well-being of many people in Canada. Short-terms hazards that can affect mental health include:

Longer-term events that can affect mental health include:

Knowledge and awareness of climate change threats can also affect mental health, resulting in emotional and behavioural responses such as:

Mental health impacts of climate change may include:

Impacts can also include:

These impacts can result in:

Specific groups at higher risk for the mental health impacts of climate change include people experiencing health inequities based on:

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