Canada’s getting hot: Adaptation is becoming more pressing

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GLOBE-Net, January 30, 2013 Canada’s “Climate Normals” are being re-calculated and significnt change is evident, suggesting that climate adaptation measures are becoming increasingly important.

Canada is warming faster than any other country, and has seen average winter temperatures climb 3.2 degrees since the 1940’s. Along with increasing temperatures come more erratic storms, health concerns, and property damage.

[stextbox id=”custom” float=”true” width=”200″ bcolor=”add3d5″ bgcolor=”add3d5″ image=”null”]Environment Canada updates the average precipitation amounts and the average temperatures in communities across the country. There is often little change from year to year; however this time average temperatures are rising across the country, primarily in the winter months.[/stextbox]

For instance, buildings in Canada are not built to be able to deal with persistent high winds or annual floods. Insurance companies are directly affected and local municipalities have to be proactive.

A 2010 Ontario case left the government $7.7 million in debt when flood victims, and the court, claimed the municipalities should have planned for the weather.

In its review of the top weather related stories for 2012, Environment Canada noted that across Canada, big storms and floods dominated the landscape from January to December leading to mega-buck losses for businesses, governments and thousands of Canadians.

Insurers hit hard by the wicked weather in 2012 faced more than $1 billion in payouts in three of the past four years – an unprecedented and worrisome trend for the industry

Super Storm Sandy was another major climate related event in 2012. Said to be the most powerful and biggest Atlantic hurricane in history, Sandy was catastrophic for many parts of the U.S. East Coast. Environment Canada notes 2012  was the third consecutive year that 19 tropical storms developed in the Atlantic basin, which is nearly double the norm.

Hot temperatures also dominated the list of major weather stories in 2012. Globally, it was another in the top 10 hottest years spanning 160 years of records. In Canada, it was spectacularly warm – our 16th year in a row. Nationally, it was the fourth warmest on record and for millions of people in Ontario and Quebec it was the warmest year ever.

Sample Scenario: Significantly Warmer Winters

By the middle of this century, winter temperatures are expected to rise dramatically in Canada.  This scenario was produced by an ensemble of climate models (mean winter temperature change, 2041-2070 as compared to 1961-1990, SRES A1B, using IPCC AR4 climate models). Source: Canadian Climate Change Scenarios Network.

The Lower Mainland of British Columbia, home to half of the population of BC, is considered to have a high vulnerability to flood risk and the west coast of British Columbia is identified as a sensitive area with regard to sea level rise.

These concerns have huge implications for the province especially since much of the economy is driven by the shipment of goods that flow out of the ports located along the coast.  Adaptation is a must; some institutions and jurisdictions are responding directly to the threat.

Full details on Environment Canada’s monitoring of Canada’s weather normals are available here.


Adapted from PICS Climate News Scan 29 January 2013, ISIS Research Centre, Sauder School of Business, in partnership with PICS.  Editors: Neil Thomson, James Tansey, Jessica Worsley, Tom Pedersen

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