A new report highlights the enormous costs that climate change will bring to Canada, and suggests that we better take action now if we want to mitigate them by the middle of the century.
The Climate Change Adaptation Project report, issued by the University of Waterloo, is blessedly free of the “Yes, it is,” “No, it isn’t,” “Whose fault is it?” battles that are the daily fodder of newspapers, blogs and radio call-in shows.
Instead, it takes a practical approach based on the effect on the overall Canadian economy and how it can be protected.
The report does acknowledge that greenhouse gas emissions are likely the cause of general warming in Canada, but doesn’t become polemical about it. Rather, it points out that Canada is getting warmer, which will have significant effects in the future, and now is the time to do something about it.
That something isn’t as radical as banning cars, or some of the other more passionate utterings of the “green” crowd, nor is it the everything-is-fine stance of those generally called the “deniers,” who insist that climate change is a natural, and temporary, phenomenon.
The report merely says we’re not going to stop it, so we should adapt to it instead.
It identifies five priority areas that it sees as being the most in need of adaptive action, and three areas in which the insurance system should adapt soon.
The five priorities are city infrastructure, biodiversity, freshwater resources, aboriginal communities and agriculture. The insurance adjustments include adapting building codes, the provision of tools to promote adaptation by existing homeowners and aligning the price of insurance with the risk of damage.
Overall, says the report, temperatures in Canada will rise by 4 degrees Celsius by 2050. However, the farther north you go, the more temperatures will increase. The largest increases will be in the Arctic, where the average temperature is projected to rise by 8 degrees Celsius by 2050.
In B.C., this means that farmlands in the south will dry up and rivers will initially flood as glaciers melt, eventually becoming streams when the glaciers no longer send flood waters into the rivers.
Presumably, this will have a very large effect on B.C.’s agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining and other natural resources-dependent industries.
In Vancouver, summers will become warmer and drier, putting a strain on electrical systems. Winters will become significantly wetter, likely overpowering sewage and drainage systems, as well as routinely flooding homes and low-lying neighbourhoods.
In medicine, they say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Reading this report, one can’t help but think that here in Canada, we better get moving soon to deal with the problem, despite the initial costs.
It will be a lot worse later.