Given the urgency of communicating and acting on climate change combined with the evolving discourse regarding public health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to understand Canadians’ perceptions of the health risks of climate change. 3014 Canadians responded in this nationally-representative survey done in December of 2020. The 116-question survey measured prior consideration of the link between climate change and health, affective assessment of climate health impacts, unprompted knowledge of climate health
impacts, and concern about a range of climate-related impacts.
Not Cool: On the Loss of Cold Weather in the Canadian Arctic
“Most studies of climate change in the Arctic report how much warmer the climate is getting. In this study we use 1950–2020 daily observed minimum temperatures at 34 weather stations in Canada’s north to examine how rapidly the region is losing annual occurrences of cold weather (−30°C or colder). Kendall–Theil trend analysis is used to assess the strength and significance of trends. Twenty-nine of the stations were found to have significant negative trends, with an average of 4.89 fewer annual cold days per decade; on average, the stations have lost over 40% of their cold days in recent decades. An ensemble of downscaled Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, phase 5 (CMIP5) models is used to show how the numbers of cold days are projected to change in the coming decades with the representative concentration pathway (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) scenarios. Finally, we discuss the implications of the loss of cold weather in the Canadian Arctic and beyond.”
Heatwaves and Our Health
This report by the Prairie Climate Centre takes a look at what extreme heat means for the health of Canadians. It draws on data and stories available through the Climate Atlas of Canada, and was published in August of 2019.
To accompany this report, new heat wave data was published on the Climate Atlas of Canada. This new data gave Canadians the opportunity to explore and understand the risks of climate change and extreme heat locally, in their own communities.
Building a Climate Resistant City
Today, over half of the world’s population live in cities. We know that cities will soon face increased climate change impacts, such as more frequent and intense extreme weather events. The research series Building a Climate-Resilient City outlines steps that cities can take to engage in climate risk management in a range of areas, including transportation, agriculture, electricity infrastructure, disaster preparedness and emergency management.
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: Economics and finance
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: Agriculture and food security
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: Urban ecosystems
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: Transformational adaptation
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: Transportation infrastructure
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: Water supply and sanitation systems
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: Electricity and information and communication technology infrastructure
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: The built environment
- Building a Climate-Resilient City: Disaster preparedness and emergency management
This series of nine research papers was published from October 2016 to March 2017 in collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Prairie Climate Centre. These were prepared for the City of Alberta and City of Edmonton.
Series Authors: Hank Venema, Jo-Ellen Parry, Steve McCullough, Jennifer Temmer, Anika Terton, Ryan Smith
Health and Climate Change
“The health risks of climate change can sound intimidating and worrying, but there are creative, innovative strategies that can promote healthy and sustainable communities and help respond to the challenge of climate change. Taking climate action seriously means building more sustainable, pleasant, thriving communities. And taking an energy-efficient and climate-friendly approach to building and living in our communities will have important health benefits above and beyond helping with climate change.”
This article, hosted on the Climate Atlas of Canada, explores the relationship between human health and climate change.
Connecting Climate Change and Health: Guidebook
This guidebook, created by the Prairie Climate Centre, takes a look at some of the ways climate change is impacting the health of Canadians. It draws together the data, research, and stories on climate change and health available through the
Climate Atlas of Canada and acts as an index for further reading. Published in April 2022, the information summarized here spans across topics of heat illness, air quality, mental health, and more.
Prairie Climate Change: what will climate change mean for the Canadian Prairie Provinces?
Created alongside the release of the Prairie Climate atlas in 2016, this infographic poster provides a summary of relevant information present in the atlas itself.
Lyme Disease and Climate Change
How does climate change impact tick populations? Longer, hotter summers and more mild winters increase the ticks’ rates of survival, growth and reproduction. This means that they can survive and establish populations in areas where they previously couldn’t, and increase their numbers where they were already established. Longer summers also mean a longer season where ticks are active and people are outdoors – increasing the window of opportunity for the two to meet.
Ties between tick populations and climate change are explored in this article from the Climate Atlas of Canada
Climate Change and Canada's Cities
Climate determines almost everything about how we design, build, and live in our cities and towns. With our climate changing, Canadians from coast to coast to coast need to re-think important aspects of how we live our urban lives. This series of reports offers a summary of projected climate changes for Canada’s major cities, an overview of some important local impacts, and ideas and technologies that can be used today to take meaningful climate action.
Further Reading & Publications:
“Freshwater ecosystems are responsible for nearly half of global CH4 emissions to the atmosphere. Yet, among freshwaters, the role of rivers and streams in the global CH4 cycle remains unclear although current best estimates of global fluvial emissions are similar in magnitude to other important CH4 sources such as biomass burning and rice cultivation. Fluvial ecosystems play key parts in connecting terrestrial, marine and atmospheric carbon pools, and are unique in their potential to produce CH4 internally, while also receiving and emitting large amounts of CH4 generated externally in adjacent soils and wetlands. Thus, global CH4 emissions from streams and rivers may be regulated by multiple environmental factors that operate across land–water boundaries. Resolving these controls should improve our predictions of riverine CH4 emissions and our broader understanding of how running waters process and deliver carbon to downstream ecosystems in response to climate warming and other global environmental changes.”
“Despite their small spatial extent, fluvial ecosystems play a significant role in processing and transporting carbon in aquatic networks, which results in substantial emission of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere. For this reason, considerable effort has been put into identifying patterns and drivers of CH4 concentrations in streams and rivers and estimating fluxes to the atmosphere across broad spatial scales. However, progress toward these ends has been slow because of pronounced spatial and temporal variability of lotic CH4 concentrations and fluxes and by limited data availability across diverse habitats and physicochemical conditions. To address these challenges, we present a comprehensive database of CH4 concentrations and fluxes for fluvial ecosystems along with broadly relevant and concurrent physical and chemical data.”
“Understanding public perceptions of the health risks of climate change is critical to inform risk communication and support the adoption of adaptive behaviours. In Canada, very few studies have explored public understandings and perceptions of climate impacts on health. The objective of this study was to address this gap by exploring perceptions of the link between climate change and health.
There is emerging literature suggesting that framing communication around climate change in terms of the health risks it poses may increase perceptions of the proximity of the risks. These results suggest that it is important to be specific in the types of health risks that are communicated, and to consider the concerns of the target sociodemographic groups. The differential knowledge, awareness, and concern of climate health impacts across segments of the Canadian population can inform targeted communication and engagement to build broader support for adaptation and mitigation measures.”
“In this review, we explore the impacts of climate change on terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems in the Hudson Bay Lowlands and other environmental processes that mediate these impacts. We surveyed published literature from the region to identify climate indicators associated with impacts on snowpacks, ponds, vegetation, and wood frogs. These climate indicators were calculated using statistically downscaled climate projections, and the potential impacts on ecosystem processes are discussed. While there is a strong trend towards longer and warmer summers, associated changes in the vegetation community mean that snowpacks are not necessarily decreasing, which is important for freshwater ponds dependent on snowmelt recharge. A clear throughline is that the impacts on these ecosystem processes are complex, interconnected, and nonlinear. This review provides a framework for understanding the ways in which climate change has and will affect subarctic regions.”
“Winters in northeastern North America have warmed faster than summers, with impacts on ecosystems and society. Global climate models (GCMs) indicate that winters will continue to warm and lose snow in the future, but uncertainty remains regarding the magnitude of warming. Here, we project future trends in winter indicators under lower and higher climate-warming scenarios based on emission levels across northeastern North America at a fine spatial scale (1/16°) relevant to climate-related decision making. Under both climate scenarios, winters continue to warm with coincident increases in days above freezing, decreases in days with snow cover, and fewer nights below freezing. Deep snowpacks become increasingly short-lived, decreasing from a historical baseline of 2 months of subnivium habitat to warmer, higher-emissions climate scenario. Warmer winter temperatures allow invasive pests such as the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and Southern Pine Beetle to expand their range northward due to reduced overwinter mortality. The higher elevations remain more resilient to winter warming compared to more southerly and coastal regions. Decreases in natural snowpack and warmer temperatures point toward a need for adaptation and mitigation in the multi-million-dollar winter-recreation and forest-management economies.”
“The wide range of forested landscapes in boreal environments store and cycle substantial amounts of carbon, although the capacity of these systems to act as either a carbon sink or source is uncertain under a changing climate. While there are clear reports of regional-scale increases in dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations in streams and lakes, there remains substantial watershed-scale variability in these patterns.”
“Hydrological events transport large proportions of annual or seasonal dissolved organic carbon (DOC) loads from catchments to streams. The timing, magnitude and intensity of these events are very sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, particularly across the boreal region where snowpacks are declining and summer droughts are increasing. It is important to understand how landscape characteristics modulate event-scale DOC dynamics in order to scale up predictions from sites across regions, and to understand how climatic changes will influence DOC dynamics across the boreal forest. The goal of this study was to assess variability in DOC concentrations in boreal headwater streams across catchments with varying physiographic characteristics (e.g., size, proportion of wetland) during a range of hydrological events (e.g., spring snowmelt, summer/fall storm events). From 2016 to 2017, continuous discharge and sub-daily chemistry grab samples were collected from three adjacent study catchments located at the International Institute for Sustainable Development-Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario, Canada.”