Shared Services Canada System Maintenance Notice

Please note that the network will not be available for 15 min on December 3, 2022, anytime between 19:00 and 23:00 (EST).


COVID-19 Update

COVID-19: Impact on SSHRC programs, experts database and perspectives from our community.


Mind the gap: Assessing climate change vulnerability across populations

Printable version

About the project

Critical challenges facing us in terms of living within the Earth’s carrying capacity concern climate change and air pollution, but not everyone will be affected equally. Low- and middle-income countries and groups such as older adults, pregnant women, children, outdoor workers and some immigrant communities may be disproportionately affected.

For this project, we synthesized research on health-related vulnerability experienced because of climate change and the closely related issue of air pollution. A vulnerability framework as assessed in terms of exposure (contact), sensitivity (characteristics that may increase risk) and adaptive capacity (ability to adjust) across specific populations (older adults, pregnant women, children, immigrants) in Canada and South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) was used.

This project focused on investigating inequities concerning climate change and air pollution impacts across populations. The goal of this research is to improve our capacity to monitor effects, identify disparities, fill knowledge gaps and reduce health risks through informed targeted, inclusive short-, medium- and long-term adaptation and risk mitigation approaches.

Key findings

Climate change and air pollution exert disproportionate impacts across populations, so it is critical to consider differing experiences of vulnerability.

Findings suggest that higher sensitivity and exposure to climate change and air pollution affects the health of older adults, women, children and immigrants in Canada and South Asia.

The specific climate change and air pollution impacts, needs and capacity of older adults, women, children and immigrants in Canada and South Asia have not been considered, hindering equitable strategies and inclusive policies.

Evidence suggests that psychosocial and sociodemographic factors play an important role in exacerbating and mitigating climate change and air pollution risks in these populations, though research is currently limited.

Climate change and air pollution research globally has focused on only a handful of selected areas. This is a knowledge gap that impedes the development of local and global climate change and air pollution strategies and policies.

Policy implications

Climate change and air pollution are global health challenges that require inclusive approaches and policies.

There is a need to involve and consider climate change and air pollution impacts across different populations to reduce marginalization and inequities. Research with and including older adults, women, children and immigrants can help reduce disproportionate health risks, inform more inclusive policies, and build individual and community resilience.

The promotion of research that specifically addresses identified knowledge gaps in this area is critical. The intended effects of climate change and air pollution mitigation and adaptation strategies, approaches and policies can be hindered by these knowledge gaps. The impacts of climate change and air pollution on health are also directly and indirectly affected by upstream determinants (e.g., poverty). Therefore, reducing climate change and air pollution health impacts will need to involve strategies and policies that address drivers of inequity and marginalization.

Further information

Read the full report

Contact the researchers

Shelby Yamamoto, Assistant professor, School of Public Health, University of Alberta; shelby.yamamoto@ualberta.ca

Allyson Jones, Professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation - Physical Therapy, University of Alberta; allyson.jones@ualberta.ca

Alvaro Osornio Vargas, Professor, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta; osornio@ualberta.ca

Charlene Nielsen, Postdoctoral researcher, School of Public Health and Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta; ccn@ualberta.ca

Ishwar Tiwari, PhD student, School of Public Health, University of Alberta; ishwar@ualberta.ca

Jordana Salma, Assistant professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta; sjordana@ualberta.ca

McKenzie Tilstra, MSc student, School of Public Health, University of Alberta; tilstra@ualberta.ca

Stephen Hodgins, Associate professor, School of Public Health, University of Alberta; shodgins@ualberta.ca

Bhim Sapkota, Senior Public Health Administrator, Health Coordination Division, Ministry of Health and Population, Nepal; bhim.sapkota@lrz.uni-muenchen.de

The views expressed in this evidence brief are those of the authors and not those of SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR and the Government of Canada

Date modified: