Sign on to the link between climate and health

As healthcare p​​rofessionals, we are deeply concerned about the climate crisis and its impact on health. This summer, our patients experienced extreme weather events of heat dome, drought, and severe wildfires. Record-breaking temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius in June and air pollution from wildfires reached 43 times the amount of safe levels throughout July and August. Unfortunately, unlike COVID, we don’t have the ability to accurately track the health impacts of this public health emergency. However, as physicians and nurses, we saw firsthand the physical and mental effects of climate change on our patients and communities.

In its Sixth Assessment Report released in August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark warning that climate change impacts are on track to worsen unless decisive action is taken. In healthcare, we see this as a looming disaster that risks undermining our already overburdened medical system. The WHO warns that climate change affects the most basic health requirements: clean air, safe water, sufficient food and adequate shelter. It also poses new challenges to the control of infectious diseases, and gradually increases the pressure on the natural, economic and social systems that sustain health.

The WHO has named climate change the biggest public health threat of the 21st century. Yet, in the past year the BC government spent 1.3 billion on fossil fuel subsidies. We see this as analogous to government funding of tobacco companies. We call on our leaders to end fossil fuel subsidies immediately and strongly invest in the transition to clean energy.

The Covid-19 pandemic proved that our leaders are able to face health threats quickly and resolutely. The health of our planet, and all its inhabitants, cannot tolerate any further delay in climate change mitigation. We must implement bold and innovative climate solutions now. Our health depends on it.