Be it on television, social media, or a podcast, it seems like everyone is talking about climate change. But for many of us, the impacts may not be evident when our lifestyle and habits haven’t been affected.
Here are five ways climate change has and will continue to affect all of us if we don’t take bold action to fight it.
One of the many consequences of climate change is extreme weather patterns, particularly increases in heat waves. They provide an optimal dry environment, making it easier for wildfires to ignite and spread.
The year 2021 saw record-breaking temperatures. In fact, Lytton, British Columbia broke Canada’s weather record for three consecutive days, reaching up to 49.6oC. One day later, 90 percent of the village was lost to wildfires.
As the climate continues to rise, events like these will only continue.
As Canada gets warmer, many animals are becoming endangered. Take, for example, the Chinook salmon. This species lives in the colder areas of the Pacific Ocean and breeds in freshwater rivers and streams in the Pacific Northwest. Temperature increases are now impacting their ability to migrate, which allows them to breed and search for food. This is a hard blow to our environment. They are critical to freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, enriching them with nutrients when they complete their lifecycle. They are also a vital food source for animals like the Steller sea lion and the southern killer whale.
In a similar situation is one of Canada’s most endangered mammals: the Vancouver Island marmot. There are only about 200 left, and they typically live in colonies in the mountains on the Island. Climate change has increased the growth of coniferous trees throughout the marmot’s habitats. With too many trees, the marmot’s habitat is shrinking, leaving them vulnerable to other predators. Additionally, the warmer temperatures are reducing the amount of snow needed for them to burrow and hibernate during the winter.
The list doesn’t end there. Thousands of species are endangered. As our climate continues to increase, the tally of animal extinctions will rise.
For many Inuit, in particular, their skills of hunting, trapping and foraging are passed from generation to generation. But the shifts in weather patterns are forcing them to change their sacred traditions, putting their culture at risk. It’s also hindering their ability to provide for themselves.
In the Inuit community of Rigolet, Labrador, no roads connect to traditional hunting grounds, so people have relied on trails over the ice. The climate crisis has caused the ice to thaw and melt, making ice trails hazardous and hunting difficult. More and more Inuit are unable to access their traditional foods. Or contribute meat to community freezers, which are used for seniors and individuals who can’t hunt for themselves. Instead, they are relying on store-bought food that, in many cases, is unaffordable.
As our Earth continues to heat up, sacred Indigenous traditions are at risk of disappearing.
Due to climate change, our summers will become longer, hotter, and drier. This will make it harder to grow crops in Canada, like wheat and canola, which are susceptible to heat stress.
Warmer summers and milder winters will also mean an increased presence of pests and diseases. This will wreak havoc on our agricultural sector, affecting our growing abilities.
As much as humans try to modify and enhance the natural growing process of plants and crops, agriculture is still heavily dependent on climate. And with the ever-present reality of climate change, agriculture, and by extension, some of our food sources will deplete.
As we now know, climate change is creating volatile weather patterns like prolonged heatwaves. This can cause breathing difficulties and even death. In fact, 570 heat-related deaths were reported in British Columbia during the week of June 28, 2021 – this is triple the average weekly number of all deaths in the province.
Higher occurrences in natural disasters can also increase the risks of severe injuries and prolonged health concerns.
In addition to the physical effects, climate change can affect a person’s mental health due to the trauma and loss it inflicts. Hundreds of people have lost their homes to natural disasters. And Indigenous Peoples in the North cannot practice their cultural traditions. These scenarios – and many others, can certainly lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Whether physical or mental, acute or long-term, climate change’s effects on health are wide-reaching.
It’s not too late for us to save our planet. To fight the climate crisis, we need systems change, in which governments implement policies that reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. There are multiple initiatives across the country that are advocating for policy change at the federal and provincial levels. You can help make sure this advocacy work continues by donating to our Fight Climate Change with Policy Fund. This Fund includes eight organizations across Canada that are helping to enact policies that will make our planet a safer and healthier place. Donate today!