Climate Change and Air Quality

the Air, for Life.

Clean Air Day - June 7, 2023

Climate Change, the Environment & Air Quality

Climate change will affect every aspect of our lives, including the air we breathe. Although all people are affected by climate change, Indigenous Peoples are often more vulnerable to its impacts. One reason is that Indigenous Peoples have a closer connection to the land and rely on their lands and waters for traditional food, medicines, and well-being. Another reason is that many Indigenous communities are remote and have infrastructure, such as ice roads, that depend on old weather patterns.

Greenhouse gases released as a result of human activity not only warm our planet, but they also release toxic pollutants into the air at the same time [2]. Some of these pollutants include: [2]

Aligned with the belief that all things on earth are inter-connected, climate change and air quality are closely linked. Climate change will result in rising temperatures and an increased frequency and severity of wildfires [6]. Both these factors influence the amount of air pollutants in the atmosphere [2] [6]. Moreover, some air pollutants also act to warm our atmosphere, further contributing to climate change [6]. When temperatures are higher, we breath in more air and thus, potentially more pollutants [2].

Wildfires are significant sources of air pollution and have serious repercussions for ecosystems, communities and human health [6]. Many Indigenous communities are located in fire-prone forests where the risk of wildfires is increasing as a result of climate change [6]. Warmer temperatures can also have a drying effect, which makes it easier for fire to start, spread and burn more intensely [6].

Climate change will increase the likelihood of other extreme weather events as well, such as flooding, which can lead to growth of mould, affecting indoor air quality [6].

health effects of reduced air quality

Air pollution can have devastating effects on our ecosystems as well. Pollutants such as ozone nitrogen oxides have the potential to kill plants and trees by affecting their leaves [3].  Habitats and wildlife, even fish, can be impacted and die as a result of air pollutants [3]. In turn, this can severely impact food security and the ability to carry out traditional activities such as fishing and hunting [3][6].

Acid rain is one form of air pollution [3]. It’s generated when chemical compounds released during industrial processes mix with water vapour in the atmosphere and become acidic [3]. When the vapour condenses and falls to earth in the form of rain or snow for example, it can cause serious harm to our animals, plants and waters [3]. Acid rain particles are also a key contributor to smog, which can result in long term breathing problems [3].