Madam Speaker, over the past several months everyone has been debating this issue about what action we should take on greenhouse gas emissions. Across the country a growing number of organizations, jurisdictions and individuals have expressed their views on this issue. We have heard members across the way say that there is not enough scientific evidence, that there is too much scientific evidence, that scientists cannot agree on what the impacts are.
Before I came to the House, I was very involved as chair of the Council on Health Promotion of the British Columbia Medical Association and as a British Columbia member on the Canadian Medical Association Council on Health Care and Promotion. This issue has been one that we have been very concerned about as physicians and as medical organizations for the last 15 years.
We have seen the cause and effect and the impact of the eight very clear components that affect the health and well-being of Canadians as a result of climate change, of global warming and of greenhouse gas emissions. Those have been extremely important to us. I wanted to focus and concentrate on that a little because health impacts are something that we should really think about.
There is no debate on this issue. The Canadian Medical Association has recently reiterated its clear support for the Kyoto protocol and for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. This resolution was made in 1997 by the CMA. It is not a recent thing. Five years ago it was already talking about the problem.
If we look at the eight broad health impacts of climate change and variability, we will find that they are related, for instance, to temperature change. There is a very strong morbidity and mortality relationship between temperature change and humans. Cold and heat related illnesses are important for us to consider. For instance, mental health, respiratory and cardiovascular stress, occupational stress are all results of temperature related mortality and morbidity.
We look at the health effects of extreme weather conditions. We look at flooding. We look at the dust bowls that we are now seeing with our neighbours to the south and the drought that we have perceived here within our Prairies. Those not only bring with them a degradation of the actual crops that the farmers grow, but they also bring with them heat and with that extreme heat comes a whole slew of things in their wake.
We notice that there are new vector borne diseases that are going to be influenced by heat. For instance, there is the West Nile virus. No one ever believed that the West Nile virus could really make a difference or have an impact in Canada because of our temperature and climate. We felt it just was not warm enough to sustain the West Nile virus and its ability to cause severe harm to populations. Yet because of that kind of warming we are noticing the shifts that are affecting us further up north.
In fact we are finding vectors such as mosquitoes and certain rats that bring with them certain diseases we have never seen before in Canada. An example is the increased incidence of Lyme disease created by ticks that are living for a longer period of time. That is another health effect brought about by vectors and changes in our ecosystem.
If we look at air pollution, and I do not need to go over this, there is a rapid increase in asthma not only in children but in adults and in fact in seniors. This is an issue we need to really worry about. The increase has been so dramatic it has almost become epidemic proportions.
We are looking at cancer that is caused by an increased amount of heat and a thinning of the ozone layer. We are looking at new skin cancers that are occurring in Canada now that we never believed possible. There is not only an increase in the type of skin cancers but in the incidence of skin cancers and the virulence of those skin cancers.
We are talking about an increase in different allergens that are coming into Canada which are creating brand new allergic responses. The detriment to people who are immunocompromised, such as persons with HIV or people who have very low levels of immunity to some of these allergens, is they are having to deal with new diseases and new allergens that they have never seen before.
Let us look at floods. We do not need to talk about the Winnipeg floods nor the Saguenay floods. When disastrous climate change occur, the risk of flooding increases the amount of E. coli in the water table, so we are finding that an increased amount of water pollution occurs. Water that we are drinking now is increasing in the amount of E. coli content.
I could go on and on about the effects of this kind of change in the climate on our ecosystems, in our ability to sustain certain vector borne diseases, in our ability to sustain certain bacteria, in flooding and all the carnage that it brings in terms of increased mortality and morbidity, but we need to look also at the effects of the stratospheric depletion of ozone. We are finding that cancers are increasing, cataracts are increasing and immune suppression is increasing.
We do not to be a rocket scientist or a physician to understand exactly what that means for the mortality and the morbidity of Canadians and what that means in real costs to the health care system and to the whole concept of having appropriate health care.
We now know that Canadians are living longer and we know that seniors are particularly affected by greenhouse gas emissions, by the increased pollution and by the increased smog that we are seeing, especially in our cities.
The health and socioeconomic impacts of climate change cannot be overlooked and should be of extreme concern to us.
Earlier today one of my colleagues across the way talked about the fact that it was probably a reach for us to suppose that climate change and industrialization were creating huge problems. He went on to talk about BC and that every few thousand years there have been changes, even before the industrialization era.
That may be true, but we know that the world and the sun have an evolving relationship and we are seeing that in fact climate change has been going on ever since the earth has had populations on it. The difference is that some of those climate changes needed millions of years to have an impact.
In the post-industrialized era within the last century we have seen an acceleration of the impact of the emissions on the atmosphere, a climb in the carbon dioxide emissions, et cetera, from all the industrialization that was carried on. It is not that industrialization is causing global change and climate change, industrialization is actually precipitating and accelerating it to a degree.
Let me give an example. In the pre-industrialized era to which my colleague referred, we found that there were 220 parts per million of carbon dioxide by volume. In the last 100 years, in the industrialized era, we found that increased to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide by volume. What we are seeing is the acceleration of a process. Industrialization is not the simple and only cause but it is accelerating a process that would have taken a fairly long time in human evolution and in the evolution of the world to occur.
We need to consider this, not only from the perspective of whether we have the kind of science that tells us that there is climate change, that ice caps are melting, that polar ice is going and that the number of floods are increasing, these are important but I would like to concentrate on the fact that it is accelerating and that we have seen diseases in the post-industrialized and in the industrialized era that we had never seen before. We never used to see skin cancer until the industrialized era began. We never used to see diseases such as asbestosis and asthma and the amount of lung disease that we now see in the industrialized era.
For instance, when the people in Great Britain used enormous amounts of coal to heat their homes we found that there was a huge increase in the number of chronic respiratory diseases, not only in children but in adults and in seniors, and it increased exponentially during the industrialized era and the coal burning era. As the British Isles moved from coal to cleaner fuels we saw that chronic respiratory diseases, tuberculosis and other related diseases began to drop.
We could even go on to look at some of the evolutionary processes of survival that we have seen. We could look at the black moth and how at one time it was not able to survive.
When coal was burned during the industrialized era in Great Britain and in Europe the coal created soot on all of the buildings. All of a sudden the black moth, which had not evolved to be able to hide itself, was now able to survive longer because of the soot, while the white moth became endangered. This sounds like a silly example but it shows us how changes in the ecosystem come about because of pollution and climate change. Creatures that were not able to live in certain latitudes are now able to exist in different latitudes.
We have to be very careful that we are not looking at a future where over the next 10 years diseases that we believed were subtropical become diseases that are endemic in countries such as Canada where we felt we would never have those diseases.
Human portability, the movement of people around the globe, also increases the chances of infectious diseases spreading, and not only spreading but thriving and growing in our communities.
As a physician I want to stress that the issue of Kyoto, the ratification of Kyoto and the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 20% as recommended by the Canadian Medical Association is something we need to consider, not only in terms of the cost to industry but in terms of the cost in human suffering, in human disease, in mortality and in morbidity rates. There is a cost to what we are looking at now as a health care system that is already overburdened with having to deal with an increasing number of diseases and having to deal with new diseases for which we are not prepared and for which we do not have the expertise among our physicians at the moment to even look at subtropical diseases.
We do not have a lot of physicians in this country who are experts in subtropical diseases. We need to start asking ourselves what we are going to do about that.
These are some of the issues that I wanted to highlight because there is a human potential to Kyoto. It is not simply the ecosystem and climate, which are all seeming abstract things sometimes in the minds of some of my colleagues across the way, this is about real human beings. This is about our children. This is about our parents. This is about the increase in morbidity and mortality that we are going to be seeing if we do not ratify Kyoto and if we do not look at what is coming in the wake of the increased amount of climate change, the floods and the water pollution that is going to occur.
I will close by saying that I hope the members across the way have listened and that they are aware that this affects them even closer than they believe. It affects their children, their families and their communities.