Report says “keep the wetlands”.
In recent years, the news has been full of stories of bigger and more violent storms, and massive rainfall and flooding.
Scientists consulted on this question generally concluded that while actual rainfall amounts in Canada have not varied much, when, where and how they, occur have. Combined with other weather anomalies such as unexpected heat spells melting snowpack rapidly, this has led also in recent years to record floods.
In the past few years as warming atmosphere and water had affected air and ocean currents, this has also affected climate patterns and there have been many weather records broken around the world, including record droughts, floods, heat spells, storms of greater intensity, wild fires and to a lesser extent cold.
Many experts such as Xuebin Zhang, Senior Research Scientist Environment Canada agree that as the Earth warms it will increase extreme events, “As hot temperature extremes and extreme precipitation have increased globally, it is reasonable to expect the 100-year extreme hot temperature or 100-year extreme precipitation events to have become more frequent”
Michael Mann, climate scientist at Penn State University in the U.S, has also stated ” What used to be, say, a 1,000 year event (like [Superstorm] Sandy or perhaps Harvey) is now, say, a 30 year event” and goes on to say, “We’ve loaded the dice through climate change so that these events are appearing far more often.”
Fire expert Mike Flannigan says wild fires across Canada have doubled since 1970 noting that, “My colleagues and I, attribute this to, and I can’t be any more clear on this, human-caused climate change”
Faced with rapidly increasing payouts from natural disasters due to climate change, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) commissioned a study on actions that might mitigate losses, primarily from flooding.Listen
The Intact Centre and the International Institute for Sustainable Development collaborated on the study for the IBC. The Insurance Board says payouts by its members for natural disasters like floods, have more than doubled every five years since the 1980’s.
As costs mount to deal with the huge financial burden and loss due to floods, governments in Canada are beginning to shift more financial burden onto insurers and to homeowners.
Craig Stewart, Vice-President, Federal Affairs, IBC says. “Coastal and inland flood risk is rising across the country as a result of extreme weather events driven by climate change. Insurance companies are on the front lines of helping Canadians cope with the impacts of the changing climate, paying out over $1.5 billion in the last 12 months alone”.
In addition for every dollar paid by insurers, governments through taxpayers are paying three to four times that much.
Canada’s Auditor-General has reported that between the years 2009-2015, provincial and territorial governments have paid out disaster related compensation greater than the combined 39 previous fiscal years.
Similar damage and cost increases have also risen in countries all around the world.
The report says one of the most cost effective ways to limit property and infrastructure damage is to preserve environments such as wetlands, as they are.
“Natural infrastructure, such as an inland or coastal wetland, is not mere decoration – it limits flood risk and the downstream discharge of pollutants, while at the same time supporting biodiversity. In response, every attempt should be made to retain and restore natural infrastructure today, if we are to avoid unconscionable economic, social and environmental losses tomorrow.” Dr. Blair Feltmate, Head, Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation
He says that in southern portions of Canada on average over 60 per cent of natural wetlands, ponds, marshes, streams, and creeks have been altered or removed.
The report indicates that maintaining this natural “infrastructure” could reduce flood damage during a major storm by 29 to 38 per cent.
Beyond the cost factor, the report notes that preserving such natural areas in or near cities is important for biodiversity, not to mention the added aesthetic benefits of keeping natural environments in those areas and creation of recreational opportunities.
The report says as much as possible, the natural infrastructure should be preserved as is, and where possible, landscape returned back to its natural state.
(*** this article has been modified to include citations from experts regarding the intensity and frequency of warming and extreme climate related events)