6 ways the climate crisis is already hurting Canadians
This week, a groundbreaking Australian report was released that indicates society as we know it could collapse by 2050 due to climate-change related strife if countries fail to take proper action. The aim of the paper is for world governments to look at climate change as a national security issue, in addition to an environmental and economic one. Below, we take a look at some of the ways climate change is hurting the daily routine of Canadians, from increasing populations of rats to rising grocery bills.
Air pollution and heat waves
The climate crisis poses health risks for everyone in the country, and will hit children, seniors and low-income Canadians the hardest. More than 9,000 Canadians died from chronic air pollution in 2017, and that number will only increase in coming years.
The population can also expect to experience more allergies, heat stroke, respiratory illnesses like asthma, as well as cardiovascular impacts from chronic air pollution. Heat-related deaths will also be on the rise – more than 90 died in Quebec last summer due to extreme heat, and those who cannot afford air conditioning will be the first to be affected.
New diseases will be coming to the country as the warming climate allows different species to flourish – for example, there were 1,479 cases of Lyme disease in Canada in 2017, when it was virtually obsolete in the country a few decades ago. Allergy season will also become longer and more severe as allergens are able to bloom in warmer temperatures.
More expensive food
Increased frequency of extreme weather events means the agricultural landscape in Canada is getting more precarious. Extreme weather events such as floods and droughts are difficult for agricultural systems to adapt to, and more frequent extremes also generate more mudslides, snow slides, washouts, tornadoes and blizzards.
These extreme weather events can reduce crop yields by as much as 50 per cent of the average yields during normal or suitable growing conditions. This will mean less selection of produce at the supermarket and higher prices for fresh food. More and more Canadian cities are at risk of turning into food deserts, with processed food becoming more readily available and affordable than healthier, fresh foods.
A hotter climate has extended rodents mating season, causing a huge spike in urban rat populations.
Rats aren’t just an eyesore for your yard or apartment – they also carry disease to humans, including salmonella, rat-bite fever and leptospirosis. It has also been recently discovered they can carry MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant superbug, and C. difficile, a spore-forming bacterium known to cause serious gastrointestinal disease. Toronto currently has no city program in place to combat rats, leaving residents to hire exterminators at their own expense.
Risks to accessible drinking water
Although Canada holds over 20 per cent of the global water supply, each of the country’s 25 major watersheds is facing multiple environmental threats. Warming temperatures mean that invasive species are thriving in the Great Lakes – which provide drinking water for 8.5 million Canadians – disrupting the natural food chain and killing off native species. Even small shifts in temperature and precipitation can translate into profound effects on flow rates and on the way ecosystems function in Canada’s watersheds. Much of the Great Lakes drinking water is also at risk of suffering an oil spill, as there is ample crude oil transport infrastructure near the water in question.
Infrastructure destroyed by extreme weather
On Canada’s coasts, cities are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased tsunami risk. In the North, cities rely on stable, frozen permafrost for building and road construction, but warming temperatures have been melting permafrost at unprecedented rates.
All over the country, shifts in averages and extremes of temperature or precipitation can exceed design expectations, shortening the effective life of the built environment. Higher temperatures can soften asphalt, making roads and bridges wear out more quickly. As apartment buildings and homes are being built or replaced to resist extreme weather, low-income Canadians and vulnerable populations will be worst affected as the housing market becomes even more unaffordable.