Op-Ed: Lessons from COVID can help with the Climate Crisis

Impacts of climate crisis could dwarf those of COVID.

This op-ed was published October 11th, on behalf of the organizations and individuals supporting the Just Recovery Simcoe initiative.

My name is Brent Elsey and I am a member of Barrie Doctors On Climate Solutions, a group of physicians who want to support actions that help people’s health and the environment for both the current and future generations. Barrie DOCS want to educate our communities about the Climate Crisis and the impacts on health. We want to collaborate with other community groups to take local action.

Bringing People Together

Just Recovery Simcoe is one such group. JRS was created to bring together people who want our elected representatives to implement Covid pandemic recovery strategies that will make our communities more resilient and more adaptable to best respond to the Climate Crisis impacts.

Barrie DOCS share with Just Recovery Simcoe the desire that all levels of government will make decisions that:

1) Invest in People

2) Invest in Nature

3) Invest in Community.

The Barrie DOCS recommendations to the Barrie City Council echo these principles:

1) Coordinate action to improve food security

2) An aggressive tree planting program

3) Improvement in public areas to encourage walking and biking.

COVID vs Climate Change

The recent Throne Speech and responses from our elected representatives are the reasons for this letter. I must let you all know that the health impacts of the Climate Crisis will be much, much worse than what we are seeing with the Covid pandemic.

There are many similarities between these two crises.

Both have the greatest impact on our most vulnerable- the old, the poor, the homeless, those with chronic diseases and our Indigenous communities.

Both significantly impact healthcare delivery.

Both are global in nature and accompanied by multiple warnings before they finally strike.

Both have and will have tremendous ripple effects on society, the economy, and our lives.

Both require massive changes in how we live, work, interact and deliver healthcare.

Both require policy decisions based on the best available science and evidence.

Both require strong leadership and communities that can work together.

Climate change is pushing Atlantic currents further into the Arctic, and is one reason why it remains ice-free at the latest date in ever recorded. This will likely amplify feedback loops, which will exacerbate climate change. Loss of white ice surface, for example, means less more heat from the sun will be absorbed, rather than reflected away from the Earth.

Climate Crisis Impacts

The Climate Crisis impacts will be much more significant, longer in duration and will have no easy fixes, like a vaccine.

Our communities will experience extreme weather events with infrastructure destruction that impairs healthcare delivery, worsening food insecurity, increased poverty in our most vulnerable neighbours, negative effects on our air and water quality, social upheavals driven by Climate Crisis refugees and new epidemics from “old “ pathogens like cholera and malaria.


My hope is that all levels of government will use the learning and changes demanded by the Covid Crisis to tackle the Climate Crisis. People in our communities have shown that they can make massive lifestyle changes.

When scientific evidence is communicated clearly and accurately and when the changes required demonstrate benefits for all (especially for the most vulnerable), Canadians have shown they can and will step up.

Canadian Values

The Canadian values of cooperation and compassion become evident everywhere. Innovative thinking is encouraged and supported.

The fiscal infusions must be directed to address both the impacts of Covid and to kick start the changes needed to address the Climate Crisis.

For example – the transition of CERB to a Basic Guaranteed Income to eliminate poverty and its health impacts.

Or a just and equitable transition from fossil fuel based economy to a sustainable, “green” economy and in doing so demonstrate to the world we can exceed our greenhouse gas targets.

Finally, we need a TEAM CANADA – all levels of government, all political groups working together. And we need ACTION.

Time to Act

We have a very small window and it is closing fast.

Example: If we are going to plant 2 billion trees, let’s get started- in our cities, in our provinces, across our country. 

I implore everyone reading this to get behind a Just Recovery in Simcoe and across Canada. 

Visit www.justrecoverysimcoe.ca to learn more.

Yours sincerely,

Brent Elsey, MD

Just Recovery Simcoe is an alliance of 40+ groups from across Simcoe County and beyond.  Their core belief is that a healthy community is one that is equitable, environmentally friendly, and one that seeks to provide healthy places to live and work for all.  JustRecoverySimcoe.ca 

Help create a just and sustainable future.

If you’d like to be a part of this initiative, or have comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.