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Climate Change

What is Climate?

Climate refers to the average or usual weather patterns and conditions experienced in a specific region, including local seasonal extremes and variations.

What is Climate Change?

Climate change refers to the shift or change in the weather patterns of a region, or the entire planet.

In 2007, the International Panel on Climate Change stated that warming of the climate system is clearly evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.  As reported in 2007, eleven of the twelve years between 1995 -2006 ranked among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850).  On May 2, 2013, the World Meteorological Organization announced that 2012 joined the ten previous years as one of the warmest — at ninth place — on record despite the cooling influence of a La Niña episode early in the year.

Although the specific impacts of a warming climate will vary depending on the region in which you live, in general climate change is anticipated to result in generally warmer temperatures, shorter and milder winters, longer and hotter summers, more frequent and/or more intense severe weather events such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, floods and droughts.

Measuring Climate Change

Climate change is measured by variations in average weather patterns. Other indicators of climate change can include changes in wind patterns, precipitation, and increases in the frequency of extreme weather events, such as heat waves and heavy spring rainfalls.

What health risks are associated with climate change?

Weather and climate can have direct as well as indirect impacts on our health.

Examples of direct impacts:

  • Hypothermia in cold weather
  • Heat stress on hot days
  • Injuries from severe weather (i.e. tornado)

Examples of indirect impacts:

  • Water contamination after intense rainfall
  • Cardio-respiratory problems from smog
  • Increased risk of food-borne and vector-borne (i.e. West Nile Virus) during hotter weather

With climate change both the direct and indirect health impacts could potentially be more prevalent. For example, with a significant rise in the number of smog days and longer heat waves could come an increase in heat related illnesses and deaths, especially in those most vulnerable to heat, such as the elderly.


Adapted from content on:

Environmental Health Report 2010 (PCCHU report)