Learn about climate change and how it impacts the health care industry.
Climate change impacts are affecting Canada now. Read about past climate-related impacts and what we can expect in the future.
Documents, websites, manuals, and toolkits to help you learn about, prepare for, and combat climate change.
Learn about how facilities across Canada are preparing for climate change impacts, including the Coalition's Climate Change Resiliency Mentoring Project
Climate-related hazards can have significant implications for demand on health care services.
Impact on infrastructure
Storms, floods, wildfires, and extreme temperature events can create emergencies by damaging infrastructure and compromising access to critical resources.
Increased use of services due to health impacts
Poor air quality and increased risk of infectious diseases can result in more hospital visits, require additional resources, and increase waiting times.
Climate change could be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Effects on health of climate change will be felt by most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk. During this century, the earth's average surface temperature rises are likely to exceed the safe threshold of 2°C above pre-industrial average temperature. - The Lancet
"Climate change represents an inevitable, massive threat to global health that will likely eclipse the major known pandemics as the leading cause of death and disease in the 21st century ... The health of the world population must be elevated in this discussion from an afterthought to a central theme around which decision-makers construct rational, well informed action-orientated climate change strategies."
— Dr. Dana Hanson
President, World Medical Association
"The relationship between climate change and global health is unmistakable. This is a critical time for public health advocates to demand that political leaders safeguard the health of the world's population, with particular attention to the survival needs of the most disadvantaged."
— The International Response to Climate Change, An Agenda for Global Health Lindsay F. Wiley, JD, MPH; Lawrence O. Gostin, JD , JAMA. 2009;302(11):1218-1220
"As leaders of physicians across many countries, we call on doctors to demand that their politicians listen to the clear facts that have been identified in relation to climate change and act now to implement strategies that will benefit the health of communities worldwide."
— Taken from a letter published in the Lancet and the British Medical Journal, September 2009
A November 2014 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated with high confidence that “Health impacts [of climate change] include greater likelihood of injury and death due to more intense heat waves and fires, increased risks from foodborne and waterborne diseases, and loss of work capacity and reduced labour productivity in vulnerable populations… Globally, the magnitude and severity of negative impacts will increasingly outweigh positive impacts.”
Increasing atmospheric and ocean temperatures bring with them increased frequency and severity of storms, epidemics, heat waves, and other natural disasters that can affect the health care system:
- Storms, floods, wildfires, and extreme temperature events can create emergencies by damaging infrastructure and compromising access to critical resources. Damaged hospital infrastructure or interrupted supply chain access can endanger patients, visitors, and staff, and disable care services when they are needed most.
- Warmer temperatures bring increased risk of food-, water-, and vectorborne infectious diseases.
- Increased emissions combined with extreme humidity can result in poor air quality, exacerbating respiratory conditions in vulnerable populations.
Climate Change in Canada
Canada's rate of warming is about twice the global rate: a 2°C increase globally means a 3 to 4ºC increase for Canada. Effects will persist for centuries because greenhouse gases (GHGs) are long-lived and the oceans are warming. Cumulative CO2 emissions largely determine ultimate warming. A 2°C warming target may still be attainable, but we are already 65% of the way to the associated carbon limit or budget and global emissions must peak before mid-century. GHG emissions need to become net zero in order to stabilize climate at any temperature (NRCan).
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada are driven by a number of factors, such as economic and population growth as well as the mix of energy supply. Emissions in Canada’s commercial and residential buildings increased by 14 Mt between 1990 and 2005, and then remained relatively stable around the 2005 levels through to 2011. Since 1990 buildings have accounted for about 12% of Canada’s GHG emissions in any given year. The stability in emissions since 2005 is attributed mainly to energy retrofits, as 40% of all building floor space has seen some level of energy retrofit between 2005-2009.
Canadians across the country can be vulnerable to the health impacts of thunderstorms and lightning, snow storms, freezing rain, tornadoes, hurricanes, and hailstorms – particularly when widespread power outages occur and where health, social, and emergency services are insufficiently robust to handle large or concurrent events. - Natural Resources Canada, 2014
Globally, the number of reported weather-related natural disasters is increasing. Climate change has driven extreme high temperatures and has probably contributed to more frequent and extreme precipitation events and more intense tropical cyclone activity. Together, these trends will increase the risk of weather-related hazards to human health. - World Health Organization, 2011
Source: Research Group at Public Safety Canada
Extreme heat events are an increasing concern in Canada and abroad. As the climate changes, the frequency, intensity and duration of these events are expected to increase, as are their related adverse health effects. In recent years, extreme heat has resulted in a significant number of preventable deaths. - Health Canada, 2011
Extreme heat events pose serious health risks to Canadians; for example, they are associated with sudden, short-term increases in mortality, especially among older adults, people who are chronically ill, people on certain medications and the socially disadvantaged. A 2009 extreme heat event in British Columbia contributed to 156 excess deaths in the province’s lower mainland area and in 2010 an extreme heat event in Quebec resulted in an excess of 280 deaths. - Natural Resources Canada, 2014
Climate change may affect health risks from both zoonoses and vector-borne diseases. Surveillance data indicates that Lyme vectors (as a proxy for Lyme disease risk) are spreading into Canada at a rate of 35-55 km per year and are following climate-determined geographic trajectories. - Natural Resources Canada, 2014
Climatic factors like temperature and precipitation interacting with shifts in trade, travel, land use, and demographics are likely to affect the occurrence of vector-borne disease...around the world. Water-borne disease replication, survival, persistence, and transmission are subject to environmental influences and do best under warmer conditions such as those projected for the future. - The Resource Innovation Group, 2012
Climate affects crop productivity, animal production, virility of pests and diseases, pollinator health and water availability and quality. Climate changes will necessitate changes in human activities (e.g. cropping systems, use of irrigation) and lead to flora and fauna reactions. - Natural Resources Canada, 2014
Severe weather events and rising temperatures are likely to cause a decline in livestock productivity. Higher heat places stress on animals, which reduces dairy production and slows growth and conception rates. Marine fish population and distribution are already changing due to higher ocean temperatures. - The Resource Innovation Group, 2012
Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Groups
A Pan‑Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is in progress. Provincial, territorial, and federal governments are working together to encourage clean economic growth, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and prepare for the impacts of climate change.
The Working Group on Adaptation and Climate Resilience is one of four working groups established at the direction of Canadian First Ministers in the Vancouver Declaration. It is led by a federal and a provincial co-chair, and is composed of members from federal, provincial, and territorial governments.
Click to read the Resilient Health Care Submission for the consideration of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Adaptation and Climate Resilience.
Canada-Wide Coal Phase Out
Coal is a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, and talk is well underway to phase out its use in Canada.
In May 2016, The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) blogged about Health Professionals Calling for an End for Coal. On September 2nd, a CAPE press release highlighted negotiations by several Canadian provinces to completely phase out coal plants by 2030.
We will continue to post updates here as more information becomes available.
For a more extensive list of resources, including presentations, publications, and government documents from Canada and abroad, visit our Climate Change Mentoring page.
Health Canada Climate Change Publications
Health Canada Publications
Extreme Heat and Human health
- Communicating the Health Risks of Extreme Heat Events: Toolkit for Public Health and Emergency Management Officials
- (2011) It's way too hot! Protect Yourself from Extreme Heat
- (2011) Keep children cool! Protect Your Child from Extreme Heat
- (2011) You're active in the heat. You're at risk! Protect Yourself from Extreme Heat
Extreme Heat Events Guidelines: Technical Guide for Health Care Workers
Extreme Heat Events Guidelines: User Guide for Health Care Workers and Health Administrators
Fact sheets for health care workers:
- Acute Care During Extreme Heat: Recommendations and Information for Health Care Workers
- Community Care During Extreme Heat: Heat Illness: Prevention and Preliminary Care
- Health Facilities Preparation for Extreme Heat: Recommendations for Retirement and Care Facility Managers
Adapting to Extreme Heat Events: Guidelines for Assessing Health Vulnerability
Heat Alert and Response Systems to Protect Health: Best Practices Guidebook
Climate Change and Health: Adaptation Bulletins
- Number 6 - February 2015 - Health Canada is Collaborating with Canadian Communities to Reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect
- Number 5 - October 2014 - North American Working Group on Climate Change and Human Health
- Number 4 - June 2014 - Developing Heat Alert and Response Systems in Urban and Rural Communities
- Number 3 - February 2011 - Understanding Community Resilience to Extreme Heat Through Table-top Exercises
- Number 2 - February 2011 - Communicating the Health Risks of Extreme Heat Events: Toolkit for Public Health and Emergency Management Officials
- Number 1 - November 2009 - The Urban Heat Island Effect: Causes, Health Impacts and Mitigation Strategies
Newsletters, other publications and Workshop and Conference Reports
The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care has won international recognition on climate leadership for the development of the Health Care Climate Change Resiliency Toolkit. For more information on this toolkit and how to engage your facility in using the toolkit, please contact Linda Varangu atLinda@greenhealthcare.ca. See all 2016 Global Climate Champions here.
Watch the replay of the Feb. 16 Climate & Health Meeting hosted by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, APHA, The Climate Reality Project, Harvard Global Health Institute and the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment with support from the Turner Foundation and other organizations. Read more.
Eating too much red meat can have health consequences and has negative impacts on the environment, causing air and water pollution that contribute to climate change. The James Beard Foundation has developed an innovative strategy to reduce consumption of meat while still enjoying the foods we love: mixing in veggies. Enter the Blended Burger. A blended burger combines mushrooms (or other plant-based ingredients) with ground beef (or other ground meat) to reduce the total meat in the burger while improving its flavor. Health Care Without Harm is bringing this strategy to the health sector as a complement to its “Less Meat, Better Meat” approach. Read More.
The Pan Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Clean Growth is now available online! Federal, provincial, and territorial governments have identified new actions to build resilience to climate change across Canada in the following areas:
- Translating scientific information and Traditional Knowledge into action
- Building climate resilience through infrastructure
- Protecting and improving human health and well-being
- Supporting particularly vulnerable regions
- Reducing climate-related hazards and disaster risks
The majority of Southeastern Australia hospitals were not designed with weather risks in mind, and many facilities in the region are currently feeling the impact of extreme heat. While healthcare providers are coping with the impact of the weather events, the buildings they work in and the infrastructure that supports them often constrain their ability to respond. Power outages and sick people waiting hours for beds have been reported. Read the article.
Climate change is advancing at an alarming rate around the world and it is now more important than ever that we act congruently to reduce GHG emissions while planning for resilience to the impacts that are already evident and projected to worsen. However, these crucial pathways are still largely being considered separately. The Low Carbon Resilience report from the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) points to the co-benefits and synergies we can achieve if we consider adaptation and mitigation simultaneously.
Emissions from agriculture threaten to keep increasing as global meat and dairy consumption rises. If agricultural emissions are not addressed, nitrous oxide from fields and methane from livestock may double by 2070. Read more.
2016 is set to break even the temperature records of 2015. Preliminary data shows that 2016’s global temperatures are approximately 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to an assessment by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Read more.
With the U.S. Supreme Court stay of President Obama’s clean power plan, there are concerns the U.S. will miss its stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 26-28 percent by 2025. The U.S. made this commitment in advance of the UN Climate Summit in Paris last year. Read more.
Access to fresh fruit, vegetables and many other foods could be dramatically limited due to climate change by 2050, according to a new report published in the medical journal the Lancet. In the report, scientists from the U.S. and the U.K. predict a lack of access to nutritious foods, which could see severe decline in public health — and, in some cases, deaths. Read more.
Climate change is a critical public health issue — one that hospitals need to do more to address. Every year, U.S. hospitals are emitting 8 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gases, generating more than 5.9 million tons of waste annually, and spending more than $6.5 billion on energy costs. While many hospitals are beginning to adopt more climate-friendly policies, including changing supply chains to obtain greener products, increasing water conservation efforts, or reducing toxic and hazardous waste, we still must do more to reduce our collective environmental footprint. Read more.
Environmental exposure is top of mind for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. During a lecture last week at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Medicine Research, McCarthy, who has worked in environmental safety for more than 20 years, spoke to a small group of medical students about the EPA’s mission to protect public health. Read more.
The Notice of intent to inform stakeholders of upcoming consultations on proposed changes to the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, published on December 10, 2016, in Part I of the Canada Gazette, provides information about the proposed changes and plans for consultations. The proposed expansion to the reporting requirements includes:
- Lowering the reporting threshold from 50,000 to 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. All facilities that emit the equivalent of 10,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gases in CO2 equivalent per year will be required to submit a report;
- Reporting of additional data (e.g. more detailed emissions, quantities of fuels or feedstocks consumed, etc) and applying specific quantification methods to determine emissions. These new requirements will be gradually phased in by sectors.
ECCC will begin consultations with stakeholders in early 2017, in advance of issuing requirements for 2017. Interested stakeholders will find information on how to get involved in the above notice or on the GHGRP website. If you are interested in participating in a collective stakeholder discussion with the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care, please email Linda at email@example.com.
The implementation notes show that the majority of the GHG emissions are within the supply chain providing products and services, and pharmaceuticals have been identified as a major GHG contributor to the health system – 16% of the entire NHS health care system carbon footprint. Also provided is a list of 20 priority pharmaceutical items with the highest GHG impact, which collectively account for more than 60% of the pharmaceutical footprint. Having doctors understand the implications of medications from a global health perspective could be a small step in the education process and can start the discussion of what the options for reducing pharmaceutical use could look like. Read more.
Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change is an international, multi-disciplinary research collaboration, dedicated to tracking progress on health and climate change from 2016 to 2030. Click here to access the latest report which describes the Lancet Countdown's plans and proposes a series of indicators and indicator domains, to be tracked by the collaboration.
COP22 featured a range of events covering the impacts of climate change on public health, including: Health Action Day, Health Care Without Harm and Global Green and Healthy Hospital’s Climate and Health Care Conference, and the launch of the Lancet Countdown, a project aiming to annually track and report on the health impacts of climate hazards. Read more from Health Care Without Harm News.
First Ministers agreed to develop a pan-Canadian Framework to achieve Canada’s international commitments in the Paris Agreement. They agreed to implement policies in support of meeting or exceeding Canada’s 2030 target of a 30% reduction below 2005 emissions and transitioning Canada to a stronger, climate-resilient, low-carbon economy. Read More.
Practice Greenhealth's Fall 2016 issue is now available online. The focus of the issue is Climate and Water. Highlights include one major city's strategy to enhance its climate change resiliency, environmental stewardship in anaesthesia, environmentally preferable purchasing, and celebrating Healthcare Without Harm's 20th anniversary. Access the full magazine here.
The special issue of the Pan American Journal of Public Health (PJPH) " Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities" is now online!
The Working Group on Adaptation and Climate Resilience is one of four working groups established at the direction of Canadian First Ministers in the Vancouver Declaration. It is led by a federal and a provincial co-chair, and is composed of members from federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Click here to read the Green Health Care submission for the consideration of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Adaptation and Climate Resilience.
A busy medical ward is the last place you want the lights to go out in the event of a hurricane, flood or extreme weather event. These are also the conditions that can drive surges of patients to emergency rooms for treatment at a rate that can quickly outpace the hospitals capacity to react. Climate change increases the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events and conditions – from asthma to vector diseases — likely to increase demand for healthcare. Read more.
The BC Climate Change Health Policy Group (CCHPG) provides a vehicle for organizing the health sector to document and reduce the impacts of climate change on health in the province while supporting efforts to reduce the sector's carbon footprint. The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care is pleased to participate in this important greening initiative. Interested in learning more about CCHPG activities, meetings or membership? Read more.
2015 was a big year for climate action. In August, President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan, limiting carbon pollution from U.S. power plants for the first time in our history and demonstrating a serious commitment to addressing climate change and its impact on human health. Read more.
HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE -
Health Sciences Centre (HSC) is the largest health centre in Manitoba. In 2014, HSC installed new high efficiency chillers to reduce GHG emissions and improve energy efficiency. HSC now saves $184,000 in energy costs every year.
MANAGING CLIMATE RISKS TO
WELL-BEING AND THE ECONOMY
The Adaptation Sub-Committee's progress report 2014 considers preparedness to climate change in England related to major infrastructure, business, public health and emergency planning. This video highlights case studies where positive action is being taken to reduce the risks of climate change.
IN A CHANGING CLIMATE
A film examining how existing National Health Service hospital architecture may be refurbished to become more resilient to extreme summer heatwaves. This film is one of the outputs from a major EPSRC-funded research project undertaken by Cambridge, Loughborough, Leeds and the Open universities.