Call for Action on Climate Change to Protect Health

The federal government is developing its budget for the next fiscal year. This means it is time to let our Members of Parliament (MPs) and Federal Ministers know what issues and actions are important to us.

For those of us who believe that climate change poses an existential threat to life on the planet, it is time to renew our calls for action on climate change. People may find it helpful to send the Call to Action on Climate Change and Health to their MPs, to Federal Ministers who have responsibilities for health, the environment, finances, infrastructure and transportation, or to the Leaders of the federal parties.

This Call to Action was prepared by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) in collaboration with the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), and the Urban Public Health Network (UPHN), a network of Medical Officers of Health who are responsible for public health in Canada’s large urban centres.

It has now been endorsed by 25 Canadian health organizations representing more than 300,000 health professionals, including the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Canadian College of Family Physicians (CCFP), the Canadian Peadiatric Society, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), and the Lung Association of Canada.

The Call to Action explains that climate change is already harming the mental and physical health of Canadians with air pollution, emergency evacuations, power shortages, food insecurity, insect-borne diseases and floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and heatwaves. It notes that, on a global scale, climate change is already having a devastating impact on the health and lives of people around the world.

Citing the 2018 report prepared by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Call to Action reminds us that the human impacts of climate change will be nothing short of catastrophic if we do not get climate emissions under control; that hundreds of millions of people will be forced into poverty if we allow global warming to reach 2 degrees C.

It also reminds us that many of the actions needed to fight climate change will produce significant and immediate health co-benefits for the jurisdictions that take actions. By reducing our use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gasoline, diesel and natural gas, we can reduce premature deaths, heart and lung diseases, emergency room visits, and healthcare costs that result from air pollution, while fighting climate change. By investing in public transit, cycling infrastructure, and walkable communities, we can reduce premature deaths, chronic diseases and healthcare costs related to physical inactivity, while cutting climate emissions. By promoting diets rich in plant-based proteins, we can reduce obesity, chronic diseases and health care costs, while reducing climate emissions linked to meat production.

In 2015, Canada pledged to keep global warming well below 2oC by signing the Paris Agreement. To date, we have fallen far short of the emission reductions needed.  In 2020, our emissions are projected to be 111 MT greater than Canada’s 2020 target of 620 MT.  To limit global warming to 1.5oC, we must cut global emissions by 45% by 2030. Canada must do it’s fair share. For more details, see the Call to Action in English or French.

Prepared by Kim Perrotta, MHSc, February 21, 2020.