300,000 Canadian Health Professionals Call for Urgent Action to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change

Please find below a media release from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

22 major health organizations sign Call to Action to prevent a public health crisis

Toronto, October 10, 2019 – Twenty-two of Canada’s top health organizations, representing more than 300,000 health professionals, have signed a Call to Action on Climate Change and Health, asking all political parties to treat climate change as a public health emergency and develop action plans to bring Canada in line with international climate emissions targets.

Data show that climate change is harming the health of Canadians by increasing levels of air pollution, spreading insect-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease, and increasing the frequency and intensity of heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. The health risks include premature deaths, hospital admissions for heart and lung diseases, heat stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder, increased rates of substance abuse, along with injuries and fatalities caused by extreme weather events.

“Climate change is a public health emergency. We are calling on all political parties to make climate solutions a priority in the 2019 federal election,” says Robin Edger, Executive Director and CEO of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). “Climate change is already affecting the health of Canadians, and in some cases, particularly among vulnerable populations, the effects are fatal. The negative health impacts will only escalate if we do not dramatically reduce climate emissions quickly.”

In the fall of 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that articulated the devastating health impacts that would result from 2 degrees Celsius of global warming – impacts that would put hundreds of millions of people at risk each year within 30 years.

To prevent global warming from reaching 2 degrees Celsius, the IPCC concluded that the global community must cut climate emission by 45% by 2030 and to zero by 2050. 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 need to invest in our ability to adapt our health care system and public health capacity to address the growing health impacts of climate change in Canada,” says Dr. Sandy Buchman, President, Canadian Medical Association. “And we need a comprehensive plan to meet our international targets and invest in adapting our health system and public health capacity. We expect nothing less from our next government.”

“The good news is that many of the actions needed to avert catastrophic levels of climate change will produce significant and immediate health benefits and health care savings for the jurisdiction that takes action,” says Kim Perrotta, Senior Director, Climate, Health and Policy for CAPE.

The health organizations are calling for all federal parties to commit to:

  1. Developing effective and evidence-based climate action plans that demonstrate how Canada will achieve the emission reductions needed to do its fair share to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius;

  2. Creating and funding the policies and programs needed to transition farmers, fossil fuel workers, and their communities to a low carbon economy;

  3. Providing the funding and coordination needed to ensure that our health care institutions, public health units, and communities are prepared for the climate change that is happening.

Dr. Francine Lemire, Executive Director and CEO of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, says doctors are already seeing the health impacts of climate change in their patients. “The College of Family Physicians of Canada is proud to sign on to this Call to Action,” says Dr. Lemire. “Family doctors are aware of the effects of climate change on human health. We must tackle this crisis of our times together.”

The Canadian Federation of Medical Students – representing future doctors who will be called on to deal with this escalating public health threat – is also among the 22 organizations who have signed on to the Call to Action.

“Climate change poses a threat to the future of this planet and serious efforts must be made to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Climate change has huge impacts on health, health systems, and society, which we will be grappling with as future physicians,” says Achieng Tago, Director of Global Health for the Canadian Federation of Medical Students.

Attached: Call to Action on Climate Change and Health

Media contact:
Melissa Hughes
Communications Director
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment