New report provides options to mitigate climate risks

As the federal government finalizes its national plan to limit the risks of climate change, a new report on disaster resilience is urging the country to implement and act on policies to mitigate those risks.

The National Adaption Strategy — a plan for federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous governments to work together to reduce the threats posed by climate change — will be released this fall.

The Canadian climate is warming twice as fast as the global average, and three times faster in the North. Last June, the town of Lytton in the B.C. Interior set record-high temperatures before a wildfire destroyed much of the community. Months later, the region was hit by devastating floods, forcing thousands to flee their homes.

Western farmers have been suffering droughts, high winds in Ontario and Quebec left thousands without power before the winter holidays, and parts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have been damaged by heavy rains and high winds.

According to “Building a Resilient Canada,” a report released Wednesday by the non-profit Council of Canadian Academies and commissioned by Public Safety Canada, governments and their citizens should be aware of the choices that can made to mitigate climate-change risks, which are detailed in the report’s findings.

In 2020, insured losses caused by climate-related disasters reached $2.4 billion, a number that’s rising every year, the report says.

“These risks are in every region of the country,” said Scott Vaughan, a former federal commissioner of the environment and sustainable development who chaired the report.

“Given the urgency of climate risks … across Canada, we really can’t have different silos working separately on different (actions) to reduce risks of climate change,” Vaughan told iPolitics on Tuesday.

Just getting flood maps for the report proved to be a challenge, he said, adding that big gaps remain in information that decision-makers need.

“About six per cent of Canadians are living in flood plains, and they’re unaware of the full risk of living there,” Vaughan said. If Canadians, architects, city planners, and governments knew the risks, homes and businesses would be built elsewhere.

“Spending a dollar in prevention … has huge paybacks, up to $6, $10, or even $11 for every dollar spent,” Vaughan said, adding that municipalities and governments across the country are interested in the report’s findings.

He also stressed the importance of including Indigenous communities and their local knowledge in community approaches to reducing risks.

“These natural disasters are going to increase, (but) we can plan by flood proofing and planting trees,” he said. “This requires an all-of-society approach.”

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