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Letter: Climate change harming Canadians’ health

By: Letter to the Editor

 | Jun 26, 2014 - 12:00 PM |
On June 26, 2011, TVO’s Steve Paikin hosted a day long Agenda Camp in Sudbury. Agenda Campers ranked social services as the most important topic, followed by pricing carbon pollution. Ranked last was health care.

In the final round at Agenda Camp, the health care team said the most pressing issue facing our health care system was climate change and they threw their votes behind carbon pricing. Sudbury’s Agenda Campers were ahead of the curve.

On June 16, 2014, public-health officers in Canada said climate change is the most pressing health issue facing Canadians, but there hasn’t been enough dialogue within health circles and among decision-makers on how to deal with it.

Poor air quality, severe weather events and new vector-born diseases are harming Canadians’ health. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) found that in 2008, poor air quality cost Canada about $8 billion. By 2031, the CMA said that those costs are expected to rise to $250 billion.

Dr. Eilish Cleary, the chief medical health officer for New Brunswick said, “There hasn’t been adequate recognition by all levels of policy-makers and decision-makers that it is really a problem that we have to do something about. I think that that has to be the first step.” What’s more, she said, decisions about emissions can’t be taken in isolation of health.

Dr. Robert Strang, chief public health officer for Nova Scotia, agreed, adding that not enough discussion has focused on prevention, which requires minimizing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Dr. David McKeown, medical officer of health for the city of Toronto, reported that deaths in the city related to poor air quality are down to 1,300 from 1,700 a decade ago.

While Ontario’s phase-out of coal, increased ridership on public transit and cleaner vehicle emissions are all likely contributors to improved air quality Toronto there is still progress to be made.

He said, “We have work to do of our own in order to reduce emissions and improve the impact on health.”

The diagnosis is clear — the planet is seriously ill, and the disease can be traced back to fossil fuels. Now it’s time to get treatment.

The spoonful of sugar that will help the medicine go down is returning 100 per cent of the money collected from carbon taxes back to citizens on an equitable basis, as is proposed in the Carbon Fee and Dividend policy that MP Bruce Hyer.

Cathy Orlando
National manager, Canadian Citizens’ Climate Lobby

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