Lancet Report details health impacts of climate change with new estimates re heat impacts on labour

The latest landmark Report of the Lancet Countdown  was released at the end of November 2018, updating the global research on the health impacts of climate change.    The title of the press release reveals the focus : Extreme heat damaging our health and livelihoods and threatening to overwhelm hospitals around the world  . Using new methodology, the report estimates work hours lost to extreme heat: “153 billion hours of work were lost in 2017 due to extreme heat as a result of climate change. China alone lost 21 billion hours, the equivalent of a year’s work for 1.4% of their working population. India lost 75 billion hours, equivalent to 7% of their total working population.” lancet 2018 map heat and labour

Although the 2018 report emphasizes the increasing threats related to heat, it  measures 41 indicators related to disease, air pollution, extreme weather, and addresses economic and social impacts – including food security and climate migration.  Regarding energy, it states “ In 2017, renewable energy provided 10.3 million jobs – a 5.7% increase from 2016. But fossil fuel extraction industries increased to 11 million – an 8% increase from 2016.” The report estimates  deaths from air pollution by source attribution, with coal estimated to account for 16%  of deaths globally.  It also includes a new indicator mapping extremes of precipitation, identifying South America and southeast Asia among the regions most exposed to flood and drought and, on food security, the report points to 30 countries experiencing downward trends in crop yields, reversing a decade-long trend.

In addition to the main global report, national Briefings for Policymakers are provided for the Brazil, China, the EU, India, the Netherlands, Spain, U.K. and the U.S., as well as Canada. An excellent summary of the main report and the Canadian sub-report appears from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

The Briefing for Canadian Policymakers  is written in collaboration with the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association. It provides a Canada-specific view of  health impacts, and makes recommendations: for example, “Phase out coal-powered electricity in Canada by 2030 or sooner, with a minimum of two thirds of the power replaced by non-emitting sources ;…  increase ambition in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in Canada and twin this with an emphasis on Just Transition Policies to support an equitable transition for people who work in the fossil fuel industry as the energy economy transforms;…. Apply carbon pricing instruments as soon and as broadly as possible, enhancing ambition gradually in a predictable manner, and integrate study of resulting air pollution-related health and healthcare impacts into ongoing policy decisions.” The report provides Canadian context for  the under-appreciated topic of  “Climate Change, Mental Health and Ecological Grief”, with examples from the Arctic and sub-Arctice: Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, and a study of  the SOS Summer-of-Smoke , when the area around  Yellowknife experienced  prolonged smoke and fire exposure in 2014.

Finally, the global Countdown report warns  that “A lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of the national health systems they depend on, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.”  It points to the growth of health-related advocacy groups , the divestment from fossil fuels, (including by the Canadian Medical Association), and the need for climate change-related training for health professionals.    The Canadian report also addresses this need for training for health professionals, stating:  “A well-trained workforce is required to respond to these challenges. The Canadian Public Health Association’s Ecological Determinants Group on Education has been working to integrate an ecosocial approach into public health education, including facilitating the participation of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students in an International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations initiative which seeks to see climate change and health gain a foothold in curricula by 2020 with fuller integration by 2025.”

The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change is a global, interdisciplinary report funded by the Wellcome Trust, and researched through the collaboration of  27 academic institutions and inter-governmental organizations. The full report is here  (registration required).

Quebec youth sue the Canadian government for inadequate action on climate change

environment jeunesseENvironment JEUnesse is the Quebec youth group behind the world’s latest intergenerational climate lawsuit. Their press release  states: “On November 26 2018, ENvironnement JEUnesse, represented pro bono by the firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance, applied to bring a class action against the Canadian government before the Superior Court of Québec today on behalf of Quebeckers aged 35 and under.  ENvironnement JEUnesse alleges that the Canadian government is infringing on a generation’s fundamental rights because its greenhouse gas reduction target is not ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change and because it does not even have a plan that would allow it to reach this already inadequate target.”  The law firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance  provides legal details, and states that “The class action seeks a declaration that the Canadian government’s behaviour in the fight against climate change infringes on the rights of young people, as well as an order to pay punitive damages.”

ENvironment JEUnesse invites readers to join the class action suit, donate, and support the  initiatives of other Quebec activists (Pact for the Transition  , and  the Déclaration d’urgence climatique  ).  The main website is in the French language, and a French language newsletter  is available.

The National Observer broke the news with Quebec youth apply to sue Canada to get toughter carbon pollution targetsand Climate Liability News published  “Canada Faces Latest Youth-Led Climate Lawsuit” .   Both articles identify the Quebec lawsuit as part of a world-wide movement in where youth are suing their governments for their right to a future without climate catastrophe.  The best known climate case of such cases  is the Juliana vs U.S. constitutional “Trial of the Century” which began under President Obama and was scheduled to be heard on October 29. It is still under challenge from the federal government. There have also been youth cases in several U.S. states – most recently in Florida  .  In Norway, Nature and Youth Norway, in cooperation with Greenpeace, are currently appealing an unsuccessful  court decision  in January 2018, and the youth of Columbia achieved a successful decision in the Demanda Generaciones Futuras v. Minambiente  case , in which the government was ordered to formulate plans to protect the Amazon from deforestation.  ENvironment JEUnesse  provides a summary of all related cases here

4th U.S. Climate Assessment provides new estimates of economic costs of climate change

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, a consortium of 13 federal government departments and agencies,  released volume 2 of the 4th National Climate Assessment  of Climate-change Impacts on the United States on November 23. This report is exceptional for the  unequivocal, comprehensive, and detailed information contained, and a new emphasis on the economic impacts of climate change, described as “broader and more systematic”, providing an advancement in the understanding of the financial costs and benefits of climate change impacts.  For example, the report estimates a worst-case scenario for 2090 where extreme heat results in “labor-related losses”  of  an estimated $155 billion annually;  also,  $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century. Other key themes: the negative impacts of climate change on trade, the disruption of supply chains for U.S. manufacturers,  likely loss of productivity for U.S. agriculture, unequal impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, and the impact on Indigenous peoples.

In an article from the New York Times, climate expert Michael Oppenheimer  says, “This report will weaken the Trump administration’s legal case for undoing climate change regulations and it strengthens the hands of those who go to court to fight them.”   Small wonder the administration chose to release it on the eve of American Thanksgiving, when public attention would be distracted.

Volume 2, just released, is based on the scientific findings of the  4th National Climate Assessment, Volume 1,  which was released in 2017.  Volume 2 is over 1500 pages, and is composed of 16 national-level topic chapters, 10 regional chapters, and 2 response chapters. Each of the 29 individual chapters is downloadable from this link.  The Overview is here.   A Guide  briefly explains the modelling assumptions and sources of information used; more specific detail is in Appendix 3: Data tools and  scenario products   .

Media reaction and summaries include: “Climate Change Puts U.S. Economy and Lives at Risk, and Costs Are Rising, Federal Agencies Warn” in Inside Climate News  (Nov. 23);  “New National Climate Assessment Shows Climate Change is a Threat to our Economy, Infrastructure and Health” from the Union of Concerned Scientists (Nov. 23);  “U.S. economy faces hit, climate change report warns”  from the New York Times, reposted to Portside (Nov. 24) ; or “3 big takeaways from the major new US climate report”  in Vox (Nov. 24) .

4th climate assessment labour

From the 4th National Climate Assessment U.S. – Chapter 1 Overview

 

Climate Strikes: Children are leading the way

Greta ThurnbergAlthough all eyes have been on the Juliana vs. United States legal action in the U.S ( given the go-ahead again on November 2, according to  Inside Climate News ), other young people are taking up the fight against climate change.  In September, after record heat and forest fires in Sweden, Greta Thurnberg began to skip school to demonstrate outside the Swedish Parliament buildings, and, using the  hashtag #Fridays for Future ,  is calling for people to demonstrate in solidarity at their own government’s buildings on Fridays  – read “The Swedish 15 year old who’s cutting class to fight the climate crisis”  in The Guardian for more.

Greta has become a Nordic celebrity, and her protest has spread.  Australian kids from 8 to 15 began their own campaign on November 7, with a call for  a nation-wide strike on November 30 – Updates and news are at  #School Strike 4 Climate   (the website is here)  .

Charlie Angus protest

NDP MP Charlie Angus supports Sudbury striker

In  Canada,  an 11-year old in Sudbury Ontario credits Greta for inspiration and began striking from school in November, as reported by the Sudbury Star in “Young climate activist to strike Friday in Sudbury” (Nov. 2) and “Activism runs in the blood for Sudbury student “ (Nov.8) .  The article quotes her as asking: “If adults don’t care about our future why should I? What is the point of going to school?”

Further inspiration also comes from (slightly older) young adults in Canada, in “Meet 2018’s Top 30 Under 30 in Sustainability” in Corporate Knights magazine (Nov. 6). It profiles  young adults from 16 – 29 who have rolled up their sleeves in a variety of green projects, organizations,  and businesses.

Tips for greening office workplaces in new Guide

green office toolkitThe Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare, in partnership with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and others,  recently published the  Green Office Toolkit ,  which provides practical tips and examples focused on improving energy and water conservation, handling of toxic materials, and  workplace transportation, as well as the topics of creating, organizing and motivating a workplace “green team”.  Although it is intended for health care clinics and medical offices,  like Confronting Climate Change on Campus , (published by the Canadian Association of University Teachers in 2018),  the Green Office Toolkit  is easily adaptable to other office workplaces beyond the medical office or university setting.

The Guide falls squarely within the interest area of the Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare , established in 2000, and which is the lead agency managing the Green Hospital Scorecard  program, “ the only comprehensive health care benchmarking tool in Canada measuring energy conservation, water conservation, waste management and recycling, corporate commitment and pollution prevention.” The CCGH publishes an electronic newsletter, Green Digest , with news from Canada and the U.S. , and other resource guides and tools.

One of the other partners in the publication of the Guide is the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment  , best known for its increasing advocacy related to the health impacts of climate change – such as  air and water pollution, toxic chemicals, health effects of wildfires and natural disasters.  The other partner organizations are McMaster University Hospital (Hamilton, Ont.), Women’s College Hospital (Toronto, Ont.) and  Synergie Santé Environnement (Quebec).