CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION

Health and Well Being

Climate change is not just an environmental and economic threat. It is also a threat to public health and wellbeing. In Atlantic Canada, coastal erosion, storm surges, ice storms, and inland flooding pose risks to human health.

“From wildfires to heat waves to new infectious diseases, we’re already treating the health effects of climate change. It’s time we had a comprehensive plan so that Canada meets our international climate change targets.” – Dr. Sandy Buchman, Canadian Medical Association president

The occurrence of extreme weather events (such as floods causing coastal erosion and damage to infrastructure, etc.) worsen the physical and mental health conditions of the population.

Comeau, L., & Nunes, D. (2019). Healthy Climate, Healthy New Brunswickers: A proposal for New Brunswick that cuts pollution and protects health. Retrieved from Fredericton, New Brunswick: www.conservationcouncil.ca

There is growing evidence of climate-related health threats in Canada including increased heat stroke and death from heat waves and respiratory problems from air pollution. In the decades to come, these health impacts will intensify, and costs will increase. The current health and social systems that help people adapt and recover are not equally available to all people across Atlantic Canada.

Zoonoses are infections or infectious diseases transmissible under natural conditions from vertebrate animals to humans and involve a wide range of causal agents including: viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and prions. Emerging zoonoses are defined as newly recognized diseases or those that have increased in incidence or expanded their geographic, host, or vector range. Zoonoses comprise approximately 60% of all known infectious diseases, while 75% of emerging infectious agents are zoonotic.

Climate change has been linked with the establishment and geographical expansion of zoonotic diseases, an example of which is the well-documented increase in human cases of Lyme disease in Atlantic Canada.  Lyme disease is increasing due to the range expansion of the tick vector.  As temperatures continue to increase, and with reduced freezing in the winter, it is anticipated that several zoonotic diseases will be affected.

Adaptation:

  • Check Provincial public education programs regarding the growing presence of black-legged ticks carrying Lyme disease (such as Be Tick Smart and Lyme NB)
  • Post-tropical storm Arthur in July 2014 and the ice storm of January 2017 in the Acadian Peninsula made it possible to learn lessons of how to help the most vulnerable. In Lamèque, door-to-door visits during the ice storm revealed worrying levels of isolation for people on low incomes. Community groups responded by building a community kitchen, shower and laundry room, and offering free meals and counseling. These types of services are useful for building relationships and building healthy community resilience.
  • Local food self-sufficiency has potential benefits for food security, particularly if climate change disrupts global food production and imports of food become more expensive.
  • In terms of mental health, researchers from the American Psychological Association recommend that authorities help people to believe in their own resilience, to encourage optimism, cultivate adaptive capacities, maintain practices that help make sense of and promote connectivity with family, place, culture and community.
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