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Doctors at COP28 to talk about the impact of the climate crisis on health

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec4,2023

Doctors at at COP28 to talk about the impact of the climate crisis on health

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Emergency physician Joe Vipond, masked, claims to resurrect the earth during a demonstration at COP28 in Dubai.


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A group of Canadian doctors are in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to raise awareness among COP28 participants about the consequences of climate change on patient health and entire health care system.

The latest example of the negative impact of climate change on health services is the weeks-long closure of hospitals in Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith due to wildfires in the Northwest Territories, says Dr. Courtney Howard , emergency doctor in Yellowknife.

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A local state of emergency was declared by municipal authorities in the Northwest Territories because of wildfires and hospitals including that of Yellowknife had to be evacuated. (Photo taken on August 17, 2023)

Our entire hospital had to be evacuated this summer. This 100-bed hospital required a military operation to move our patients, she described during an interview at COP28.

We are seeing that [climate change] is not just impacting health.

A quote from Dr. Courtney Howard, an emergency physician in Yellowknife

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Climate change is increasing the risk and frequency of extreme weather events around the world, including Canada, according to scientists.

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This is the first time in its 28-year history that COP28 has dedicated a full day to health with speeches and events exploring topics ranging from air pollution to food shortages, including through how public health can become resilient in the face of climate change.

The reality is that the climate crisis and the crisis health are one and the same thing. They are totally linked, said John Kerry, US President Joe Biden's special climate envoy.

There were also numerous forest fires last summer in Alberta. Their consequences on the health of residents were significant, explains Dr. Joe Vipond, emergency physician in Calgary and member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. He made the trip to Dubai.

I come here because that I'm afraid. This year has been one of the worst in memory.

A quote from Dr. Joe Vipond, emergency physician in Calgary

Patients described to me that it felt like you couldn't physically get enough air into your lungs, says emergency room doctor , reporting on patients suffering from asthma and other respiratory conditions during the wildfires.

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This year, Alberta experienced one of the worst forest fire seasons. (Photo taken on June 5, 2023)

According to him, some of his patients no longer have a normal respiratory system after being exposed to forest fire smoke for a month. Some doctors are calling for more training on air quality and mental health issues related to climate change to better work with their patients.

In Dubai, more than 120 countries including Canada signed the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health.

By endorsing this declaration, we highlight the health risks posed by climate change and play an active role in global efforts to make health a priority in the face of environmental challenges, states the federal press release (New window).

Additionally, organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, the Global Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation have also announced approximately US$1 billion in funding for climate and health-related initiatives.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) who is urging the federal government to create a secretariat on climate and health, points out that the systems The country's health services are under pressure due to increasing admissions and environmental threats.

[Climate change] is now recognized as the greatest threat to human health in our 21st century.

A quote from Dr. Kathleen Ross, President of the Canadian Medical Association

So it's time we start [thinking] about all the changes [necessary], she said.

According to her, one of the changes to be accomplished is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by the pharmaceutical industry, the heating and air conditioning of hospitals or even by modifying the way in which anesthetic gases and inhalers are used.

Healthcare systems account for nearly 5% of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions, the CMA argues.

With information from Kyle Baxx

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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