Five national health organizations have issued an urgent call for federal politicians of all stripes to recognize climate change as “the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century”, and to conduct themselves accordingly.
The groups—the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Urban Public Health Network—released a five-page call to action on climate change and health earlier this week. It stresses emission reductions sufficient to keep average global warming below 1.5°C, support for workers and communities in the low-carbon transition, and funding and coordination to help health care institutions prepare for climate impacts.
“The immediate health effects of climate change became a greater reality for many Canadians in the summer of 2018 as the country experienced soaring temperatures, massive wildfires, and dangerous levels of air pollution as smoke blanketed their communities,” the groups state in a release. But after the IPCC called for a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, “Canada’s current targets do not represent our fair share of that reduction, and current projections show that we are not on track to meet the current targets.”
“We are the generation in charge during the last time window for humanity to decrease its emissions enough to maintain a livable climate,” and “the next 12 years are critical,” said CAPE President Dr. Courtenay Howard. “Members of Parliament elected in the 2019 federal election will ultimately have the opportunity to ensure a healthy response to climate change or be responsible for devastating climate-related impacts that will be visited on our children and future generations. Just as when we do CPR during a code blue in the hospital, we need to push hard, push fast, and not stop in order to ensure a healthy outcome.”
“Climate change is no longer some abstract idea that may harm future generations or people on the other side of the globe,” said CMA President Dr. Gigi Osler. “It’s a reality that’s already harming the physical and mental health of Canadians. We cannot afford to treat climate change as a wedge issue. We must treat it as the public health crisis that it is.”
“The threats to physical and mental health from climate change have the potential to undermine the advances we’ve made in the past century and create an unsustainable burden on Canada’s publicly funded health systems and economy,” said CPHA Executive Director Ian Culbert. “As a nation, we can avoid this disaster by tackling climate change today and improve public health for generations to come.”