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In The Media: A summer of fire, heat and flood puts a focus on adapting to climate change

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"There is too much complacency in the system. We’re not deploying the adaptation practices nearly fast enough." - Dr. Blair Feltmate


This article was written by Shawn McCarthy for the The Globe and Mail.

The deluge flooded downtown streets and basements of high-rise office towers, causing more than $80-million in damage and nearly drowning two men who were trapped in an elevator with the rising water.

The Aug. 7 downpour in Toronto dropped 72 millimetres of rain in the city centre in a few hours, the kind of storm that is expected only once every 100 years, according to Environment Canada. Bay Street towers, including TD Centre, took on storm water and lost power; service was disrupted at Toronto’s commuter hub, Union Station; and ground-floor meeting rooms were under water at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The $80-million is for insured damages, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said on Friday. Uninsured costs were likely higher, while severe weather across the province has caused more than $1-billion in insured property damage, the bureau said.

It was a summer of fire, heat and flood in Canada.

The adaptation efforts should not come at the expense of reducing emissions, said Laura Zizzo, whose company, Zizzo Strategy Inc., works with industry to identify and manage climate-related risks.

"We have to work hard to avoid the unimaginable and manage the inevitable," she said.

Global average temperatures have increased one degree C above preindustrial levels, and the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising to dangerous levels, the U.S. agency NASA says. The past 19 years included 18 of the warmest on record, according to a report this week from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, a group of international politicians and business leaders.

Businesses that regularly deal with financial risk – banks, pension funds and the securities industry – are in the forefront of assessing the economic threats, but few people consider the physical risks, Ms. Zizzo said.

"The big thing that people have not thought about enough is the physical risks to their organizations from extreme weather and climate-related impacts," she said.

In cities and towns, municipal planners and building owners should factor resiliency into their design and construction, said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation in Waterloo, Ont. Among its efforts, the Intact Centre is working with the Standards Council of Canada to develop codes for flooding-proofing homes, communities and commercial buildings.

Strategies can be as simple as adding a curb to the entrance of an underground parking lot to reduce flooding, or installing a device on the bottom of an elevator that will send it to a higher floor when it encounters water. But many strategies are costly and the payback is uncertain.

"We’re doing good things [as a society], but are we keeping up to the stress? The answer is no," Dr. Feltmate said. "There is too much complacency in the system. We’re not deploying the adaptation practices nearly fast enough."

Read the full article from The Globe and Mail

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