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Climate change is affecting the health of New Brunswickers: report

Click to play video: 'Conservation Council of New Brunswick says climate change is bad for our health' Conservation Council of New Brunswick says climate change is bad for our health
The new report makes the link between physical and mental health impacts, and extreme weather in New Brunswick. Megan Yamoah reports – Jun 25, 2019

A new report says climate change is affecting the health of people in New Brunswick and calls on the government, communities and the public to take action.

The report was released on Tuesday and prepared for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick by Louise Comeau, a research associate at the University of New Brunswick.

Comeau says changing climate events such as flooding and ice storms are having an effect on the mental and physical health of people in the province.

READ MORE: Data reveals scope, damage of spring floods in Quebec and New Brunswick

She says record floods over the last two years are expected to become more common, adding to stress, property damage, mould issues, sewer backups and E. coli concerns.

“We need to find a way to bring social thinking to how do we solve climate change, not just economic thinking or technological thinking,” Comeau said in an interview with Global News on Tuesday.

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Healthy Climate, Healthy New Brunswickers is a report that summarizes how climate change can affect mental and physical health. Megan Yamoah / Global News

The 47-page proposal calls for a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a new electricity system such as solar or wind and a goal of getting 2,500 electric cars on the road by 2020 and increasing that figure to 20,000 a decade later.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick hopes the report will increase awareness among the general public and convince the provincial government to support its recommendations.

“Ninety-six per cent of New Brunswickers feel that climate change is not only here and now but directly has an impact on their lives,” said Lois Corbett, the council’s executive director.

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The report states that those in northern New Brunswick are likely to be the hardest hit by climate change, with events like flooding, wind and ice storms worsening in recent years.

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“Some people in the Acadian peninsula were there 12 days without electricity in the end of January,” said Mariane Paquet, medical officer of health for the north region.

Comeau says that coping with the aftermath of extreme weather events can cause anxiety, and with the number of 30-plus-degree days expected to increase, especially in central New Brunswick, vulnerable low-income families and seniors will also face increased hardship.

According to the government of New Brunswick, temperatures have increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the province since the late 1970s, a rate that is twice the global average.

READ MORE: Improving flood mapping is first step in future mitigation, expert says

Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. Megan Yamoah / Global News

But the issues go far beyond feeling hot.

“Ticks are moving northward, carrying Lyme disease. We’ll see other kinds of diseases we are not accustomed to moving with these warmer temperatures,” said Comeau.

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Despite the enormous task ahead, the head of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick says it is confident there is a solution available to the province.

“I am outrageously confident that we can forge a positive path paved with solutions going forward,” said Corbett.

—With files from the Canadian Press

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