Research to Insights: Social, Economic, and Health Perspectives on Climate Change

Release date: April 15, 2024

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About Research to Insights

The Research to Insights series of presentations features a broad range of findings on selected research topics. Each presentation draws from and integrates evidence from various studies that use innovative and high-quality data and methods to better understand relevant and complex policy issues.

Based on applied research of valuable data, the series is intended to provide decision makers, and Canadians more broadly, a comprehensive and horizontal view of the current economic, social and health issues we face in a changing world.


  • Climate change is a long-term shift in weather conditions. It involves changes in both average weather conditions and variability, including extreme weather events. This increases the frequency and severity of precipitation events, flooding, droughts, extreme heat, wildfires and storms.
  • There is scientific consensus that human activity is the main cause of climate change, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, which stays in the earth’s atmosphere and causes the earth’s temperature to rise. Other greenhouse gases (GHGs) include nitrous oxide and methane.
  • Many aspects of Canadian society affect and are affected by climate change, including nature and biodiversity, infrastructure, the economy, workers, and the health and well-being of Canadians.
  • Tackling the causes of climate change and reducing its impact on people, society and the economy is a Canadian priority. Some examples include Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan: Canada’s Next Steps for Clean Air and a Strong Economy; Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy; the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy; the Clean Technology and Climate Innovation Strategy; Indigenous-led Natural Climate Solutions; and Climate Science 2050: Advancing Science and Knowledge on Climate Change.

References: Climate change statistics, Causes of climate change and AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023.

Figure 1 Recent weather-related events influenced by climate change that were experienced across Canada

Description for Figure 1
  • June 25 to July 1, 2021—Heat dome over British Columbia and Alberta. Many regions experienced record temperatures over several days.
  • November 13 to 15, 2021—Extreme flooding in southwestern British Columbia. More than 200 mm of rain recorded in some areas.
  • May 21, 2022—A derecho across Ontario and Quebec brought torrential rains, large hail and downburst winds, resulting in widespread damage.
  • September 24, 2022—Fiona made landfall in eastern Nova Scotia with sustained winds of 165 km/h, the force of a category 2 hurricane.
  • April 5, 2023—Widespread freezing rain in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region caused havoc on roads and public transit systems.
  • 2023—Canada experienced the worst wildfire season on record, with more than 15 million hectares burned, causing poor air quality across many regions of Canada and evacuations of towns and cities, including Yellowknife.

Sources: Canada’s top 10 weather stories of 2023 -, Canada’s top 10 weather stories of 2022 -, Canada’s top 10 weather stories of 2021 -

Economic impacts: Up to 15% of the regional economies in British Columbia were affected by the 2021 flood events

  • Fine-grain economic measures are often needed to measure the economic activity at risk from natural disasters.
  • Parts of British Columbia were affected by flooding caused by heavy rains from November 13 to 15, 2021.
  • While the impacted areas account for a small share of the British Columbia economy, on a regional basis they account for 15.5% of the economy of Fraser River Valley, 4.6% of the economy of Thompson–Nicola and 6.2% of the economy of Okanagan–Similkameen.

Map 1 Geographic extent of flooring relative to gross domestic product creation in the Fraser Valley around Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Description for Map 1

This is a map showing the intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) creation within 1 square kilometre grid squares by quintile for the Abbotsford and Chilliwack area. Grid squares are shaded based on the value of GDP created by firm locations within the grid squares.

The legend is titled “GDP quintile,” and colours are associated with the quintiles as follows:

  • the top quintile in dark maroon (100)
  • the second-highest quintile in maroon (80)
  • the middle quintile in light maroon (60)
  • the second-lowest quintile in dark peach (40)
  • the bottom quintile in light peach (20).

The map consists of two parts.

The first part is a wider view of the Abbotsford and Chilliwack area. It includes major roads and has labels for Abbotsford, the Sumas Prairie, Chilliwack, the Trans-Canada Highway, Fraser Valley, British Columbia and the United States. The shaded grid squares show a concentration of dark grid squares over urban areas of Abbotsford and Chilliwack and lighter grid squares around the Sumas Prairie.

The second part is an inset of the Sumas Prairie. It includes a second legend indicating that the extent of flooding is shown with cross hatching.

The inset map shows the flooded areas using cross hatching, as well as the grid squares shaded by quintile. The inset map includes rail lines, roads and highways. It includes labels for

  • Abbotsford
  • Sahhacum
  • Clayburn
  • Vye
  • Poignant Creek
  • McKee Peak
  • Straiton
  • Kilgard
  • Upper Sumas
  • Norton
  • Marshall Creek
  • Arnold Slough
  • Arnold
  • Sumas Mountain
  • Sumas Prairie
  • Taggart Peak
  • Chadsey Lake
  • Barrowtown
  • the United States.

The grid squares that correspond to the flooded areas are mostly shaded to show they are in the bottom quintile of GDP values. Some grid squares around the northern part of Abbotsford and around Arnold indicate higher GDP values. About half of the grid squares that are flooded do not show GDP values.

Source: Statistics Canada, authors’ calculations.

Health impacts: Long-term wildfire exposure is associated with increased risk of lung cancer and brain tumours

  • The number of wildfires and areas burned has increased in Canada, affecting air quality.
  • Wildfires emit carcinogenic pollutants that contaminate air, water, land and indoor environments.
  • There was a 4.9% higher incidence of lung cancer and a 10% higher incidence of brain tumours for people living within 50 km of a wildfire in the past 10 years compared with the unexposed population (excluding the people living in large Canadian cities).
  • Other cancers examined did not see a significantly increased risk.

Chart 1 Associations between 10-year wildfire exposure and cancer outcomes among Canadians

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1. The information is grouped by Cancer outcome (appearing as row headers), Coefficient, 2.5 percentile and 97.5 percentile, calculated using hazard ratio units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Cancer outcome Coefficient 2.5 percentile 97.5 percentile
hazard ratio
Lung cancer 1.049 1.028 1.071
Brain cancer 1.100 1.026 1.179
1.002 0.964 1.042
Multiple myeloma 1.019 0.952 1.092
Leukemia 1.002 0.955 1.052

Health impacts: More than 200 excess deaths were attributable to extreme heat events in Montréal and Toronto from 2000 to 2020

  • Exposure to extreme heat is one of the most direct impacts of climate change on health. There has been, and will be, an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events.
  • In 12 large Canadian cities (with population sizes of at least 500,000), daily mortality risk was 2% to 8% higher than average during extreme heat events from 2000 to 2020. 
  • The impacts of heat were stronger for older adults (aged 65 and older) than for younger adults.
  • Approximately 295 excess deaths in Montréal and 250 excess deaths in Toronto were attributable to extreme heat events in these cities during this period.

Chart 2 Cumulative excess deaths attributable to extreme heat events

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2 Mortality outcome and Cumulative excess deaths (appearing as column headers).
Mortality outcome Cumulative excess deaths
2000 Non-accidental deaths 0
2001 Non-accidental deaths 27
2002 Non-accidental deaths 58
2003 Non-accidental deaths 67
2004 Non-accidental deaths 70
2005 Non-accidental deaths 87
2006 Non-accidental deaths 95
2007 Non-accidental deaths 107
2008 Non-accidental deaths 107
2009 Non-accidental deaths 111
2010 Non-accidental deaths 135
2011 Non-accidental deaths 139
2012 Non-accidental deaths 148
2013 Non-accidental deaths 156
2014 Non-accidental deaths 160
2015 Non-accidental deaths 164
2016 Non-accidental deaths 197
2017 Non-accidental deaths 205
2018 Non-accidental deaths 258
2019 Non-accidental deaths 266
2020 Non-accidental deaths 295
2000 Cardiovascular deaths 0
2001 Cardiovascular deaths 14
2002 Cardiovascular deaths 29
2003 Cardiovascular deaths 33
2004 Cardiovascular deaths 35
2005 Cardiovascular deaths 43
2006 Cardiovascular deaths 47
2007 Cardiovascular deaths 52
2008 Cardiovascular deaths 52
2009 Cardiovascular deaths 54
2010 Cardiovascular deaths 64
2011 Cardiovascular deaths 65
2012 Cardiovascular deaths 69
2013 Cardiovascular deaths 72
2014 Cardiovascular deaths 74
2015 Cardiovascular deaths 75
2016 Cardiovascular deaths 89
2017 Cardiovascular deaths 93
2018 Cardiovascular deaths 114
2019 Cardiovascular deaths 117
2020 Cardiovascular deaths 130
2000 Respiratory deaths 0
2001 Respiratory deaths 4
2002 Respiratory deaths 10
2003 Respiratory deaths 12
2004 Respiratory deaths 12
2005 Respiratory deaths 15
2006 Respiratory deaths 17
2007 Respiratory deaths 19
2008 Respiratory deaths 19
2009 Respiratory deaths 20
2010 Respiratory deaths 25
2011 Respiratory deaths 26
2012 Respiratory deaths 27
2013 Respiratory deaths 29
2014 Respiratory deaths 30
2015 Respiratory deaths 31
2016 Respiratory deaths 37
2017 Respiratory deaths 39
2018 Respiratory deaths 50
2019 Respiratory deaths 51
2020 Respiratory deaths 56
2000 Non-accidental deaths 0
2001 Non-accidental deaths 13
2002 Non-accidental deaths 36
2003 Non-accidental deaths 47
2004 Non-accidental deaths 50
2005 Non-accidental deaths 77
2006 Non-accidental deaths 90
2007 Non-accidental deaths 101
2008 Non-accidental deaths 107
2009 Non-accidental deaths 111
2010 Non-accidental deaths 129
2011 Non-accidental deaths 144
2012 Non-accidental deaths 159
2013 Non-accidental deaths 168
2014 Non-accidental deaths 168
2015 Non-accidental deaths 175
2016 Non-accidental deaths 198
2017 Non-accidental deaths 200
2018 Non-accidental deaths 219
2019 Non-accidental deaths 232
2020 Non-accidental deaths 249
2000 Cardiovascular deaths 0
2001 Cardiovascular deaths 2
2002 Cardiovascular deaths 5
2003 Cardiovascular deaths 6
2004 Cardiovascular deaths 7
2005 Cardiovascular deaths 10
2006 Cardiovascular deaths 11
2007 Cardiovascular deaths 13
2008 Cardiovascular deaths 13
2009 Cardiovascular deaths 14
2010 Cardiovascular deaths 15
2011 Cardiovascular deaths 16
2012 Cardiovascular deaths 18
2013 Cardiovascular deaths 18
2014 Cardiovascular deaths 18
2015 Cardiovascular deaths 19
2016 Cardiovascular deaths 20
2017 Cardiovascular deaths 21
2018 Cardiovascular deaths 22
2019 Cardiovascular deaths 23
2020 Cardiovascular deaths 25
2000 Respiratory deaths 0
2001 Respiratory deaths 4
2002 Respiratory deaths 10
2003 Respiratory deaths 13
2004 Respiratory deaths 14
2005 Respiratory deaths 23
2006 Respiratory deaths 28
2007 Respiratory deaths 31
2008 Respiratory deaths 33
2009 Respiratory deaths 34
2010 Respiratory deaths 40
2011 Respiratory deaths 45
2012 Respiratory deaths 51
2013 Respiratory deaths 53
2014 Respiratory deaths 53
2015 Respiratory deaths 55
2016 Respiratory deaths 61
2017 Respiratory deaths 62
2018 Respiratory deaths 67
2019 Respiratory deaths 71
2020 Respiratory deaths 75

Dealing with climate change requires action, through either mitigation or adaptation measures

  • Mitigation involves finding ways to reduce the human causes of climate change, such as reducing the emission of GHGs or removing them from the atmosphere.
  • Adaptation involves finding ways to adapt to a changing climate by building resilience and reducing the adverse impacts of climate change today and in the future.

Mitigation: Carbon taxes increased manufacturers’ economic and climate change performances but had mixed results for air pollutants in British Columbia

  • The carbon tax improved manufacturers’ efficiency, with real sales efficiency increasing by 11.9 percentage points.
  • It also led to an 11.0 percentage point increase in efficiency for GHG emissions.
  • The tax’s impact on air pollutants was mixed, enhancing carbon monoxide efficiency by 7.2 percentage points but reducing nitrogen oxide efficiency by 7.3 percentage points.
  • Differences in average efficiency levels among outputs suggest producers prioritize economic over environmental efficiency to remain competitive.

Chart 3 Marginal effects of the carbon tax on output efficiency

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3 Efficiency, Average (2004 to 2007) and Average (2008 to 2012), calculated using efficiency percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Efficiency Average (2004 to 2007) Average (2008 to 2012)
efficiency percent
Real sales
2004 82.70239 84.55865 Note ...: not applicable
2005 84.90246 84.55865 Note ...: not applicable
2006 85.44449 84.55865 Note ...: not applicable
2007 85.18526 84.55865 Note ...: not applicable
2008 93.33657 96.43151
2009 96.77084 Note ...: not applicable 96.43151
2010 98.04051 Note ...: not applicable 96.43151
2011 96.89684 Note ...: not applicable 96.43151
2012 97.11279 Note ...: not applicable 96.43151
Greenhouse gases
2004 77.76785 79.18808 Note ...: not applicable
2005 79.39004 79.18808 Note ...: not applicable
2006 80.39382 79.18808 Note ...: not applicable
2007 79.20062 79.18808 Note ...: not applicable
2008 87.07661 90.14978
2009 89.59044 90.14978
2010 90.77773 90.14978
2011 91.29239 90.14978
2012 92.01171 90.14978
Carbon monoxide
2004 15.77301 15.93609 Note ...: not applicable
2005 15.60800 15.93609 Note ...: not applicable
2006 15.97958 15.93609 Note ...: not applicable
2007 16.38375 15.93609 Note ...: not applicable
2008 20.96682 Note ...: not applicable 23.14577
2009 22.79108 Note ...: not applicable 23.14577
2010 24.25263 Note ...: not applicable 23.14577
2011 23.76440 Note ...: not applicable 23.14577
2012 23.95393 Note ...: not applicable 23.14577
Nitrogen oxides
2004 37.35130 37.57717 Note ...: not applicable
2005 36.43577 37.57717 Note ...: not applicable
2006 38.05888 37.57717 Note ...: not applicable
2007 38.46272 37.57717 Note ...: not applicable
2008 36.55006 Note ...: not applicable 30.23556
2009 31.74290 Note ...: not applicable 30.23556
2010 28.94096 Note ...: not applicable 30.23556
2011 28.33596 Note ...: not applicable 30.23556
2012 25.60792 Note ...: not applicable 30.23556

For more information: Do carbon taxes affect economic and environmental efficiency? The case of British Columbia’s manufacturing plants.

Mitigation: Telework has the potential to reduce transportation emissions by up to 9.5 megatons

  • The increase in telework triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic will likely reduce GHG emissions by reducing commuting.
  • If all Canadians who could work from home in 2015 did so exclusively, GHG annual emissions attributable to transportation could have fallen by 9.5 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (i.e., 12.1% of households’ direct emissions attributable to transportation in 2015).
  • If personal homes are less energy efficient than large office buildings, part of the reduction in GHG emissions triggered by reduced commuting could be offset by emissions associated with households’ increased energy use required for heating or providing air conditioning. The magnitude of this offsetting effect is currently unknown.

Chart 4 Hypothetical reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions resulting from a complete transition to telework, by province, 2015

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 4 Megatons of CO2 equivalent (appearing as column headers).
Megatons of CO2 equivalent
N.L. 0.11
P.E.I. 0.03
N.S. 0.24
N.B. 0.20
Que. 2.15
Ont. 4.23
Man. 0.29
Sask. 0.24
Alta. 1.10
B.C. 0.92

Adaptation: Not all workers displaced from fossil fuel industries experience similar earnings trajectories after job loss

  • Transitioning to a low-carbon economy will require phasing out coal and other fossil fuels, as well as related jobs in these industries.
  • Five years after job loss, one in four workers displaced from coal mining from 2004 to 2011 saw their annual wages fall by at least $19,000.
  • However, one in four workers saw their annual wages increase by at least $31,000 during the same period.
  • Therefore,  not all workers displaced from fossil fuel industries experience similar earnings trajectories after job loss.

Chart 5 Average real annual wages and salaries of workers aged 25 to 49 permanently laid off from the oil and gas industry from 2009 to 2011, by earnings quintile

Data table for Chart 5 
Data table for chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 5. The information is grouped by Number of years before and after layoff (appearing as row headers), Bottom quintile, Middle quintile and Top quintile, calculated using 2016 dollars units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Number of years before and after layoff Bottom quintile Middle quintile Top quintile
2016 dollars
-3 19,026 55,021 120,176
-2 17,831 57,505 125,963
-1 21,621 60,538 126,960
0 27,113 49,429 95,674
1 27,856 53,579 93,265
2 35,952 65,777 108,301
3 39,301 70,069 113,215
4 39,683 70,322 112,223
5 38,208 66,034 107,279

Adaptation: More than 50% of the population in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver had a cooling centre within a 15-minute walk

  • Cooling centres such as libraries and community or recreation centres provide safety and social support during extreme heat events.
  • More than 50% of Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver residents had access to at least one cooling centre within a 15-minute walking trip of their homes. 
  • Residents living in neighbourhoods characterized by high deprivation were more likely to have at least one cooling centre within a 15-minute walk than areas with low deprivation.

Map 2 Cooling centre locations in Vancouver, British Columbia

Description for Map 2

Map 2 shows the location of cooling centres in the Vancouver, British Columbia Census Subdivision. The census subdivision is shown as a black outline. There are no labels indicating countries, regions or other geographical features on the map.

The map shows the location of all dissemination area centroids as grey points. There are many grey points regularly spaced throughout Vancouver. Cooling centres located at libraries are shown as green points. Cooling centres located at community or recreation centres are shown as red points. Cooling centres located at pools or water features are shown as blue points. The green, red, and blue points are scattered throughout Vancouver and show no clear spatial pattern.

Below the map is the scale for the map. The scale is a horizontal thick black bar. The scale extends from 0 to 10 kilometres. The horizontal length of the map scale is about two-thirds of the width of the map.

Below the map scale is the map legend. The legend has two columns. Each column has two colored points. Each point has the name of the feature it is used to represent. The first entry on the left-hand column is a grey point and the label "Dissemination area centroid." The second entry on the left-hand column is a red point and the label "Community / recreation centre." The first entry on the right-hand column is a green point with the label "Library." The second entry on the right-hand column is a blue point with the label "Pool / water feature."

Source: Statistics Canada, City of Vancouver Open Data

Chart 6 Measuring cooling centre access in Vancouver

Data table for Chart 6 
Data table for chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 6. The information is grouped by City (appearing as row headers), Level of marginalization and Probability of living within a 15-minute walk of a cooling centre (appearing as column headers).
City Level of marginalization Probability of living within a 15-minute walk of a cooling centre
Vancouver High 64
Vancouver Medium 54
Vancouver Low 33

Adaptation: About two in three Canadians had household air conditioning

  • Air conditioning is one of the most effective ways to reduce health impacts during extreme heat events.
  • Access to air conditioning varied by region, ranging from 32% in British Columbia to 85% in Ontario.
  • Individuals who lived alone, did not own their home and had low-income status were less likely to have air conditioning in their homes.

Chart 7 Prevalence of household air conditioning in Canada

Data table for Chart 7 
Data table for chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 7 Percent (appearing as column headers).
Overall 61.1
Does not own home 49.8
Lives alone 52.5
Low-income status 54.5
Overall 37.5
Does not own home 33.3
Lives alone 27.8
Low-income status 28.1
Overall 57.8
Does not own home 48.6
Lives alone 49.8
Low-income status 48.0
Overall 85.3
Does not own home 71.4
Lives alone 74.3
Low-income status 77.3
Overall 48.9
Does not own home 35.5
Lives alone 46.7
Low-income status 37.5
British Columbia
Overall 31.9
Does not own home 24.2
Lives alone 27.2
Low-income status 24.8

Adaptation: Positive emotions and concern are determinants of climate action for youth

  • Young people’s emotions in response to climate change may be important in determining their behaviour, separating activists from non-activists.
  • More than 9 in 10 youth reported feeling somewhat, very or extremely concerned about climate change. 
  • During the last six months, about 7 in 10 youth described themselves as engaging in pro-environmental behaviours at least half of the time.
  • Both concern and pleasant emotions about climate change (hope, optimism and solidarity) were found to significantly increase the frequency of climate actions.

Chart 8 Frequency of climate-related concern

Data table for Chart 8 
Data table for chart 8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 8. The information is grouped by Are you concerned about climate change? (appearing as row headers), Do you engage in pro-environmental behaviours? and Percent of respondents (appearing as column headers).
Are you concerned about climate change? Do you engage in pro-environmental behaviours? Percent of respondents
Not at all Never 0.7
Sometimes 1.5
About half the time 1.1
Most of the time 0.1
Somewhat Never 1.2
Sometimes 16.0
About half the time 19.3
Most of the time 6.7
Always 1.5
Very Never 0.3
Sometimes 5.7
About half the time 14.1
Most of the time 11.7
Always 3.9
Extremely Never 0.3
Sometimes 1.3
About half the time 5.0
Most of the time 6.5
Always 2.9

Summary of key findings

  • Climate change has had important economic, health and well-being impacts. For example, flooding had impacts on the economy in British Columbia, extreme heat was associated with increased risk of death, especially for the senior population, and exposure to wildfires increased the risks of cancer.
  • The carbon tax in British Columbia improved manufacturers’ efficiency and environmental efficiency for GHG and carbon monoxide emissions.
  • Work from home can potentially reduce GHG emissions caused by transportation by a non-negligible amount.
  • Not all workers displaced from coal mining and oil and gas industries experienced wage drops in the long term.
  • Access to cooling centres and household air conditioning differed by region and population group.

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