OTTAWA – A new report from one of the world's most prestigious medical journals, says Canadian inability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions not only kills the planet but also kills Canadians.
The report on the health impacts of climate change, published Wednesday at The Lancet, concluded that a successful solution to climate change would be the single biggest thing governments could do to improve human health in this century.
Chronic exposure to air pollution from greenhouse gas activities kills approximately 7,142 Canadians per year and 2.1 million people worldwide.
Heat waves, forest fires, floods and major storms cause more deaths and longer-term illnesses, but little data on how many people.
The first recommendation in the report is simply to track the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths in Canada, which is not the case in most of the provinces.
Last summer, public health officials in Quebec said 90 people died during a heat wave. Southern and eastern Ontario suffered the same heat, but Ontario did not capture heat-related deaths in the same way, so no one knew how many people were affected in the provincial province
Dr. Courtney Howard, Yellowknife ambulance doctor who wrote the Canadian part of the report, said that right now the world is at the rate of temperature rise that we can not adapt to, resulting in more deaths and illnesses.
The global temperature on the surface is already 1 C warmer than in the pre-industrial period, and if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at current levels, it will increase between 2.6 and 4.8 ° C from the end of the century.
"We are not sure that we can adapt to this to maintain the same civilization stability and health care systems we are used to," Howard said. "We are talking not only about maintaining disease levels, we are talking about our ability to provide health care."
Fine particles of pollutants in the air cause premature deaths in heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, acute respiratory infections and chronic lung disease. More frequent waves of heat contribute to the heat of the brain and the more intense period of pollen, which can aggravate allergies and asthma, as well as forest fires.
Warmer temperatures also help to breed insects, which means more diseases. The incidence of lyme disease borne by ticks increased by 50 percent in 2017.
Howard said that a new term "eco-anxiety" is emerging among mental health professionals that describes the psychological stress caused by changes in climate change – or even the only threat that can occur.
Public health officials will have to adapt their responses to hazards such as forest fires, because increased intensity and frequency of fires mean more communities have bad air for far longer, she said. Most health care authorities will advise people to stay at home in smokey days, but when these periods last for weeks, it is not a sustainable solution.
In San Francisco this month, smoke from wild fires caused the air to become one of the most dangerous in the world. Doctors told people to stay and wear masks if they absolutely had to go outside.
Howard said there was a need to improve the smoke prognosis so people can be informed when they can expect to be outside and safely exercise and sunlight safely during long warnings of smoke.
She said that in the last few years, Canadians warned of climate change, record-breaking forest fires in British Columbia in 2017 and 2018, drought in Prairie, heat waves in central Canada and floods of communities almost offshore. She said some people think it's new normal – but not.
"In ten years it will be worse," she said.
Howard said that if we do not increase our efforts, the change in the world will be massive, including more wars and migration.
"I am a physician for emergency situations and I am working on it because it is an emergency situation," she said.