3 Surprising Ways Climate Change Is Already Affecting Your Life

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, shares a few of the present-day impacts of global warming.

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climate change Canada
Photo, Dillon Morton / EyeEm.

Despite their deep love for Canada’s natural beauty, it can be tough to convince Canadians to place protecting the environment high on their priority list. Try to explain the far-off implications of climate change and you might get a far-off look, or even a skeptical raised eyebrow. A recent poll commissioned by Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission even found that nearly a third of Canadians don’t think climate change is caused by human and industrial activity.

And yet, according to Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Canadians do care. “Of course people care – anyone would care what the future will look like for their kids,” she says. “But it seems hard to get your head around.”

One way McKenna tries to engage Canadians is through focusing not on far-off possibilities, but on the very real impacts that a warming planet is already having on daily life. To mark Earth Day 2018, Chatelaine asked the minister to talk us through a few of the things Canadians are often surprised to learn.

Climate change is already affecting your health

If you’re now wearing long pants during summer walks in the woods or giving your dog extra medicine to keep ticks from biting her as she trawls through long grass, you have climate change to thank for that, McKenna says. “With the increase in temperatures you see an increase in diseases you wouldn’t normally see, like Lyme disease.” There have also been noted positive health impacts from measures to remove pollutants, such as coal. “When Ontario closed down the coal fire plants, the province went from 50 smog days to zero,” she says. “Teachers were really happy — they noted students were less absent for school, there were fewer kids with puffers for asthma.”

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The rise in floods and forest fires? They’re affecting your insurance costs

Recent extreme weather events, such as the flooding in Ontario and Quebec last summer and the forest fires in British Columbia and Alberta, are directly connected to climate change, McKenna says. They’ve impacted how insurance companies decide who to cover and how much to charge — some people can’t get insured now if they’re on flood plains or if they live in the path of a likely forest fire. “Insurance companies are some of the biggest advocates for climate action, because they’re just seeing their claims go through the roof,” she says. “In the past decade they’ve seen three times the number of natural disasters, but the cost is 10 times the cost. That’s what we’re all having to pay.” McKenna says Canadians can help buffer that cost by making their homes more energy efficient — for example, by updating insulation or installing energy-efficient windows.

Women suffer more because of climate change

McKenna says she’ll sometimes get grief on Twitter by talking about how women are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. But, she says, it’s an important consideration — especially for women in developing nations. “Women are more likely to live in poverty, women are more likely to be single moms,” she says. “So, as a result, getting hit by extreme weather events is going to have a bigger impact on them. They’re more likely to have to go for water.” It should make people upset, she says, that women have to shoulder this burden too. “But it shouldn’t make you upset that I say it.” On the bright side, however, McKenna says she’s been impressed to see so many smart women around the world committed to tackling climate change. “What’s been really interesting in the climate world is how many women are actually leading the conversation in a really practical ‘get things done’ way.”