Tuesday, December 7, 2021

December 1 2021

Storms highlight urgent need to build resilience

The recent rainstorm that wreaked havoc in many areas of northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton sends a strong signal that we must do more to make our communities and highways more resilient in the face of increasing instances of extreme weather.

In some places, roadways were washed out, streets were flooded and left impassable. And, as we all know, numerous residents of Antigonish needed to be rescued from their flooded properties.

As the water finally receded, the extent of the damage was laid bare. In some cases – including in Antigonish – it was severe.

The scale of the damage and hardship is so much greater, of course, in B.C., where the recent ‘atmospheric river’ storm left huge swaths of land flooded – including the entire community of Merritt. Deadly mudslides dealt a heavy toll. Farms were devastated. The recovery is ongoing, hampered by continued storms.

While it’s difficult for scientists to say that one particular storm is caused by climate change, we do know that human-driven global warming is causing the trend of more extreme weather events and will continue to do so. The extreme weather events of 2021 – including the deadly heat wave in B.C. earlier this year – show us that the devastation predicted for the future, if global warming was allowed to continue its acceleration, is here now. And our towns, cities and villages aren’t ready for it.

From long-term care homes without air conditioning to continued development in areas at risk of flooding, we clearly have much to do to adapt to the impacts of climate change now, while also ramping up mitigation efforts. Sadly, many Canadians have already experienced the nightmare scenarios that we worried would be the inheritance of our children and grandchildren. And many more will in the years ahead, if we don’t build up resilience now.

That means we can’t just build things back to the way they were before extreme weather events, just waiting for the next flood or wind storm or heat wave. We need to build back better – to borrow a phrase from President Joe Biden, used for another purpose. We need to repair highways so they can withstand a similar or worse flood. We need to move development away from vulnerable areas. We need to help people living in harm’s way.

Time is of the essence in building this resilience. The weather won’t wait.