August – The Planet Is Changing and So Will Your Health

Written by Comms Team, August 22, 2022

I’m a parent and I’m scared about what world I’ve brought my children into.

This summer over 12,000 people have died in Europe from heat-related illness. Closer to home, last year nearly a thousand people died from the “heat dome” in British Columbia. While we haven’t seen heat as extreme here in Peterborough, it has been a hot summer with unusual weather.

Heat-related illness isn’t the only way climate change has and will affect our health. We are seeing an increase to accidents and injuries as a result of natural disasters. Look no further than the devastation and lives lost in the “derecho” storm that hit our community in May. Or look at the rates of Lyme disease as it has increased by 10 times in the past decade as a result of ticks being able to survive warmer winters further and further north. Even increases in air pollution are making heart and lung diseases worse. In fact, 1 in 7 premature deaths in Canada are attributed to air pollution.

These health impacts are a result of the climate change emergency. The climate change emergency has been caused by our use of fossil fuels and our addiction to growth on this planet.

For this year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Chair, Hoesung Lee said: “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

Scientists across the world have been warning us for decades, with ever increasing concern, about the impacts of inaction on the climate emergency. For decades, people on our planet have been thinking about this as a future concern, one that we could put off dealing with, for a little bit longer. But now, these events, these worrisome changes to our planet, are accelerating and with them the health effects to our population. We no longer have time to push this off. The time to act is now before the impacts on the health of our planet and the people living on it are irreversible and make living a healthy life impossible.

Action on climate change is usually divided into two parts – mitigation, or stopping the climate changes from getting worse, and adaptation, or changing your own lifestyle to be more suited for living in a changed world.

Eating healthy local foods, getting solar cells installed or buying an electric vehicle, among countless other actions to mitigate climate change are all great solutions, but these cost money.

Making sure your home is safe to storms, that you have an emergency kit ready, running air conditioning, among countless other actions to adapt to the climate change are all great solutions, but these cost money.

Individual action, to mitigate or adapt, is important, but many cannot afford it. Peterborough Public Health is extremely concerned about the impact the climate emergency has around the world and here at home today. We’re particularly concerned about how it will impact certain people at higher risk or who don’t have the means to take costly individual actions. We’re here to help do something about it.

On November 14, Peterborough Public Health will be speaking at an event hosted by For Our Grandchildren. I will be speaking to the impacts that climate change has on the health of the residents in Peterborough. We will be joined by Naturalist, Drew Monkman, who will provide evidence that climate change is already impacting our region. We will be making the point that climate change is no longer someone else’s problem. Follow @ptbohealth on social media for event details coming soon!

The world’s leading medical journal, the Lancet shared “Climate change is the greatest global health threat facing the world in the 21st century, but it is also the greatest opportunity to redefine the social and environmental determinants of health”. For the average person, mitigating, or phasing out our use of fossil fuels and curbing our addiction on growth will come with loads of other benefits for our community and future generations. For Peterborough Public Health, developing adaptation strategies will help our community now. Adapting to a new way of living and mitigating additional harm to our planet will save lives and improve health, but we need to demand more action. Now.

Dr. Thomas Piggott
Medical Officer of Health
Peterborough Public Health