Citizen Action Monitor

Climate change wake-up call? Record floods sweep much of Canada

Why Ottawa’s “climate adaptation” approach is likely to fail to meet a safe global warming target.

No 1953 Posted by fw, May 8, 2017

“Montreal was the latest to declare a state of emergency yesterday afternoon, as rising flood waters and continuing heavy rain warnings continued through much of Quebec, Ontario, Atlantic Canada, and British Columbia…. while noting that no single weather event can be directly linked to climate change, Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna said the floods underscored the importance of federal investment in climate adaptation. ‘This is something that is real,’ she said. ‘We are seeing the impacts of climate change, and that’s why we’re taking it seriously.’ NDP leader Tom Mulcair called for an ‘all hands-on deck’ response that includes more funds to address weather events linked to climate change.”The Energy Mix

The Energy Mix is a Canadian non-profit that promotes community awareness of, engagement in, and action on climate change, energy, and post-carbon solution.

One nit-picking point to start: I quibble with the Energy Mix’s note “that no single weather event can be directly linked to climate change”. While true, there have been so many severe weather events worldwide recently, that the evidence of a causal connection between the two variables is less in doubt.

Moving right along, some may find it telling that Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna chose to “underscore the importance of federal investment in climate adaptation.”

Here’s why I found her emphasis solely on adaptation telling —

NASA points out: “Responding to climate change involves two possible approaches: reducing and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (‘mitigation’) and/or adapting to the climate change already in the pipeline (‘adaptation’).”

McKenna also said: “This is something that is real…. We are seeing the impacts of climate change, and that’s why we’re taking it seriously.”

However, if her Department of Environment and Climate is taking climate change seriously, why would she not also underscore the importance of investing in climate mitigation?

Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the Universities of Uppsala (Sweden) and Manchester (UK), might just have the answer to that question:

“We also need to reduce emissions dramatically [mitigation] in the short term to extend a window of opportunity for building that new infrastructure [e.g., renewables]. And to reduce energy consumption means those of us responsible for the lion’s share of emissions would have to cut or change our lifestyles…. there are those of us who make the new rules on climate change, and they seem to be reluctant to make the rules that people like us will have to change our lifestyles.” (Source: “The chances of staying to 1.5°C are somewhere between incredibly low and zero” – prof. Kevin Anderson, November 21, 2016)

By now, it’s apparent that PM Trudeau, rather than making rules to have Canadians cut back their lifestyles by introducing climate mitigation policies, is doing just the opposite. In a damning analysis, researcher Barry Saxifrage notes: “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has been using the power of his office and his powers of persuasion to push Canada’s CO2-extraction to ever higher levels. He’s approved several new pipelines for oil and fracked gas to carry it all.”

We could be on a precarious path to 4°C of global warming, not the 1.5°C that McKenna pushed for – and got – at COP21 in Paris, 2015. And as Anderson warns in a 2010 presentation, Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world at the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A:

Yet, as the impacts of rising temperatures are unlikely to be linear and also given rising temperatures are increasingly likely to be accompanied by additional feedbacks and hence further temperature rises, adaptation must consider more extreme climate change futures than those associated with 2°C.”

He puts it this way in Slide 29 of 67 of his presentation:

“There is a widespread view that a 4° C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of eco-systems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level). Consequently, 4°C should be avoided at ‘all’ costs.

And in Slide 46 he adds: “…it is difficult to envisage anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilization at or below 650 ppm CO2”

Bottom line – If, as McKenna tellingly suggests, the Liberals are staking our future primarily on a “federal investment in climate adaptation”, we are in deep, deep trouble.

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Getting back to The Energy Mix’s article on the record floods across Canada, below is a repost of the piece. Alternatively, read it on the publisher’s website by clicking on the following linked title.

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Montreal Declares Emergency as Floods Sweep Much of Canada by The Energy Mix, May 8, 2017

Montreal was the latest to declare a state of emergency yesterday afternoon, as rising flood waters and continuing heavy rain warnings continued through much of Quebec, Ontario, Atlantic Canada, and British Columbia.

“If people’s lives are in jeopardy, we need to think about the people first,” Mayor Denis Coderre told reporters, after issuing the 48-hour emergency order.

“The move comes after three dikes gave way in the city’s Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, located in the north end. Homes had already been evacuated in that neighbourhood, as well as on the two nearby islands, Île-Bizard and the smaller Île-Mercier,” Canadian Press reports.

“In total, nearly 1,900 homes in 126 Quebec municipalities have been flooded, with more than 1,000 residents leaving the affected zones.” A contingent of 1,200 Canadian Forces personnel were expected to deploy in west and central Quebec by Sunday evening.

Just west of the island of Montreal, the town of Rigaud issued a mandatory evacuation of flooded areas, after concluding it could no longer guarantee residents’ safety. “We will follow the fire department and actually remove the people if need be,” said Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. “Because it is either that, or services will be stuck to remove those people under a state of emergency at two o’clock in the morning on a stretcher. I’m sorry, but we are not going to go there.”

About 700 people in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa, were forced out of 390 homes. In eastern Ontario, Clarence-Rockland has been under a state of emergency since Thursday, while “a heroic sandbagging effort” in Cumberland, just east of Ottawa, failed to prevent dozens of homes from flooding, CP states.

The same story played out in the Montreal suburb of Roxboro, where Raymond Stelmashuk spent days trying in vain to save his 93-year-old grandmother’s home. His late grandfather had built the house from a fishing shack.

“I made and moved 600 bags, between 600 and 650 bags,” he told CBC through tears. “My grandfather built the house…This shouldn’t be happening, and the city should be way more organized.”

By Sunday, the house had shifted off its foundation despite his best efforts, and CBC said it might not be salvageable. But Coderre dismissed residents’ complaints about a lack of sandbags and commended Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough mayor Jim Beis for doing a terrific job.

“There is no issue in Pierrefonds of lack of sandbags,” Coderre said. “Everybody is doing a great job.”

The B.C. interior reported flooding and emergency orders in Kelowna, West Kelowna, and Fintry Delta, and a mudslide in the Shuswap area east of Kamloops, while the town of Cache Creek resumed its search for Fire Chief Clayton Cassidy, believed to have been swept away by flood waters.

In Ottawa, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the Government Operations Centre “had beefed up its standby team as a precaution and is monitoring the flooding around the clock daily,” CBC reported Friday. And while noting that no single weather event can be directly linked to climate change, Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna said the floods underscored the importance of federal investment in climate adaptation.

“This is something that is real,” she said. “We are seeing the impacts of climate change, and that’s why we’re taking it seriously.”

NDP leader Tom Mulcair called for an “all hands on deck” response that includes more funds to address weather events linked to climate change.

“We’ve got to be adding more money to the pot, not less, because this type of flooding, this type of event that’s directly related to what we’re going to be seeing with global warming, we’ve got to be getting ready for it,” he told CBC.

SEE ALSO

Adaptation, eh! So, how’s that working out for you, Minister McKenna? Too bad it’s not working out very well for the flood victims.

‘I’m feeling rage’: Flood victims irate with civil security response  by Sabrina Marandola, CBC News, May 8, 2017 –Homeowners in flood zones say neighbours are helping them save their homes, not government authorities.

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