This week, Canadian physicians are gathering for the annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Often called Canada's "Parliament of Medicine," one of the meeting's strategic sessions is zeroing in on the health consequences of climate change.
Slated to start with a keynote address from Dr. James Orbinski, past president of Doctors Without Borders, it comes at an auspicious time for many Canadians tackling the recent brutal and oppressive heat waves of summer.
It's no secret that cities across the country have been in overdrive, issuing extreme heat warnings, turning libraries into cooling centres and alerting residents to the dangers of heatstroke and exhaustion. Though everyone is vulnerable, socially isolated seniors, racialized minorities, the homeless and those with chronic illnesses, including mental illness, are most at risk.
Extreme heat produces ill health in a number of ways. Nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds, emitted largely in our cities from motor vehicles, are catalyzed in high temperatures into ozone. Known to increase inflammation in the lungs, researchers have shown that for those with asthma, higher levels of ground level ozone are linked to higher emergency department visits and more hospitalizations. For Canadians with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a higher risk of death can be added to that list.
To help mitigate these ill effects on health, doctors wisely recommend seeking shelter in a cool, air-conditioned environment. Ironically, the use of air conditioners for temporary relief can be counter productive in the long run. Drawing power from an energy grid that still relies on carbon-based energy to meet peak demand pumps ever more greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere.
Unfortunately, these climate-related health consequences represent only the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg. Thankfully, both the health-care sector and policy makers are starting to take action.
Last year, CMA members directed their organization to divest its financial holdings in fossil fuels. This year, MD Management, a financial services company and subsidiary of the CMA, recently launched one of the few Fossil-Fuel Free mutual funds in Canada.
Just last month, Public Health in Toronto released "Health Benefits of a Low Carbon Future" -- a report zeroing in on the local health benefits of reducing greenhouse gases and the steps needed to achieve them. Though the scope of climate change's problems are large, it's prescription for local action, focused through health, is worth a closer look.
For example, the report lists transportation reform as a low-hanging fruit. Motor vehicles are amongst the worst climate change offenders. Encouraging active transport and alternatives to driving play an important role in changing that.
Building mixed-use neighbourhoods where errands can easily be accomplished without a car is one step in that direction. Cities as diverse as Calgary, Dartmouth and Saanich are using the principles of transit-oriented development' to accomplish this. Comprehensive bike-sharing services, like Montreal's BIXI and the recent aggressive expansion of Bike Share Toronto, are also a step in the right direction.
The old adage of "reduce, reuse, recycle" also still rings true.
In 2015, Vancouver took a major step forward via municipal legislation. Rather than dispose of organics in the trash, the city directs businesses and residents to separate organics, like food scraps, for collection and composting into nutrient-rich compost. This process creates climate-positive biofuels to power engines, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions created by decomposing, land-fill bound scraps.
The Toronto Environmental Alliance is helping its own city catch up. After three years of campaigning, it secured city council's unanimous support for a 3R strategy that embraces a path to zero waste as a long-term goal.
Reducing the impacts on the air, soil and water from waste transportation, processing and disposal is a big win for health.
Climate change is a complex problem, one that touches on so many parts of our lives. It links greenhouse gases with extreme heat, worsens medical conditions like asthma and COPD, and demands we change our approach to transportation and power generation.
Canadians innately understand how their health is linked with these issues. The question remains whether our current pace of change will be enough to match the urgency of the changing climate.
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This windmill pair was shot in the early morning hours. The shallow fog had been around for days because of no wind, high humidity and cold temperatures.
The city of Paracatu was vanished by a river of mud, after a mining dam burst at Mariana, Minas Gerais. It was the biggest environmental accident in Brazil’s history.
Palangkaraya – The most polluted place on earth! This photo was taken on October 4th, 2015 when my friends and I did a campaign called “Kalteng with Love” where we gave free masks, milk and vitamin for the people in the city of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Thick smoke was hovering over where we live. The particulate meter that day showed that the air was so poluted and reached over 2000 psi. The smoke was caused by the fires in Borneo peatlands that was started from the end of July. For almost three months the people in Borneo had to breathe such toxicating air. There are lots of people who suffered from respiratory problems. Schools off. Flights could not operate. Economic system became paralyzed. Borneo is known as the lungs of the world and the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, and these fires are not helping. We were even labelled as the most polluted place on earth. Through this photo, I would like to raise the world’s awareness that this matter is a huge problem for all of us. This challenge is addressed not only to people in Borneo and Indonesia, but also to the entire world. Could you imagine if all of the forests in Borneo disappear and there is limitied source of oxygen left for over 7 billion people?
Wind power from approx. 120m height.
Energy ACTIVE office building, about 1100m² floorspace : produce yearly more energy then it consumes ( better then passive house results !). Heating & cooling by deep geothermal heatpump with electric compensation of full integrated PV-solarpanels (BIPV) in 45°-roof. Owner : www.stebo.be Building designed by www.burob.be & www.geertdebruyn.be , construction : www.i3.be BIPV solar roof : http://solar.golden-glass.com/c465.html Drone : Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K
Taken in between two banks of fog in a 2 minute window. Showing the tanks and stacks of Fawley Refinery.
The tiny island in the lake of Galvė looks like a continent and shows us how small our world really is. One tree cut on this island, one nest pulled apart or another kind of intervention will change it beyond our recognition. It is up to us all to make our planet clean and green
This is a picture of the king high tide crashing against this restaurant on the sand in la jolla shores. the king tide was at the peak in this photo at +7feet . is this a result of higher tides due to global warning.Today many coastal communities are seeing more frequent flooding during high tides. As sea level rises higher over the next 15 to 30 years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable .
A playing field I grew up playing football on… It\’s now acquired by the real estate company and they are killed the green of the field, trees providing shadow and building the grey houses on it. It\’s a typical depiction of the impact of growing real estate companies in Bangladesh.
After a mining dam bursts, it took almost 3 hours for the mud to reach Paracatu. Fortunately, it gave time for people to abandon their houses and run. The cemitery of Paracatu stays on a small hill, and it was there where many people rushed to protect themselves. And it was from there, that they saw their city being destroyed. There were no fatal victims in the city but the city itself.
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