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‘Made in B.C.’ climate-change strategy needed: study

July 9, 2009

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British Columbians are being short-changed when it comes to climate-change health-impact studies, according to the authors of a white paper commissioned by the provincial government, including three SFU researchers.

In their report Climate Change and Health in British Columbia, health scientists Tim Takaro and Kate Bassil, earth scientist Diana Allen and their co-authors note the World Health Organization and governments globally are primarily focused on climate change in developing areas.

But they warn that without attention to how it’s affecting regions such as B.C., with heavily populated coastal cities and remote rural communities, important opportunities for prevention will be lost.

The report is one of eight studies produced by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, a consortium of four research-intensive universities in B.C., created by Victoria last year to develop climate-change solutions.

"While there is strong evidence for shifts in climate in B.C. there is virtually no direct evidence yet available on the impact of climate change on human health in B.C.," says Allen.

Adds Bassil: "Research on the human health effects of climate change must not only grapple with the intensity and pace of climate change, but also with the location and extent of vulnerability of human populations most likely exposed to climate change."

The authors use the limited data available about how climate change is affecting regions similar to B.C. to hypothesize what environmental calamities could befall the province and their health outcomes.

They stress the province needs a "made-in-B.C." climate-change and health-research program to deal with environmental changes that will aggravate existing health disparities in the province, especially in remote rural areas.

"Research and adaptive policy must, in the immediate future, be focused on preparing vulnerable urban and rural and remote resource-dependent communities, says Takaro, "especially those with aboriginal populations and affected by the mountain pine beetle infestation."

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