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On March 9, 2022, the University of Waterloo's Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change hosted an informative discussion on the findings of Health Canada's latest national report, Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate. The lead authors, Peter Berry, Rebekka Schnitter and Paddy Enright, reflected on key insights from the wide-ranging report and highlighted the priority knowledge gaps facing Canadians, which included:  

  1. Identifying equitable and effective adaptation measures, like heat alert and response systems, surveillance of emerging/new diseases, and interventions to reduce health risks of wildfire smoke.  
  2. Obtaining more information on projected climate change impacts to prepare our health system for the cost and realities. 
  3. Determining the outcomes of adaptation measures taken to understand if they were helpful or not. In other words, understanding the direct and indirect health co-benefits and risks of implemented solutions.  
  4. Developing a better understanding of the economic costs and benefits of climate change.  

To help address these gaps, Peter Berry identified several lessons that have been learned from past adaptation and risk management efforts, such as making sure we are future-focused when planning, collaborating across sectors, ensuring that we address root causes of vulnerability, and employing innovative and regular monitoring.

Following his presentation with Rebekka Schnitter and Paddy Enright, our panel of climate change experts that was moderated by Dean of the Faculty of Health, Lili Liu, and included Zahid Butt, Susan Elliott, Craig Janes, Hannah Tait Neufeld and Rebecca Saari, reflected on Canada’s next steps. They shared specific examples, such as taking a more holistic approach to research, policy and planning that considers the synergies (and trade-offs) between adaptation and mitigation; expanding the capacity and utility of surveillance and modelling to support planning; and focusing on solutions that can support adaptations across (health, food, energy, etc.) systems. Watch the recording for their full discussion.  

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Overall, the findings of the report echo the Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It maintains that to successfully protect all Canadians from the health impacts of climate change, adaptation measures must be scaled up rapidly and substantially if current and future health impacts are to be reduced. Moreover, decision makers must pursue adaptation actions that are inclusive and equitable, and consider the needs of racialized, marginalized, and low-income populations.  

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released the second report for its sixth major assessment of the science of climate change; Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Hannah Tait Neufeld, IC3 member and Assistant Professor, School of Public Health Sciences, is a contributing author for chapter 7. She discusses the impacts to Indigenous Peoples’ health and wellbeing in a changing climate.