'Before the Flood': The Growing Urgency to Adapt to the Climate Crisis |  Globalnews.ca

‘Before the Flood’: The Growing Urgency to Adapt to the Climate Crisis | Globalnews.ca

The world is rapidly heading towards climate change tipping points. Floods, fires and heat waves are striking with increasing ferocity. There is, in Canada as elsewhere, a growing reality that adaptation is urgent and necessary.

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The Red Cross distributed $27 million in Fiona donations, most to Nova Scotia, PEI.

Armed with this knowledge, the federal government on Thursday announced a $1.6 billion spending package to help provinces, municipalities and First Nations deal with the effects already seen across the country.

Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair says the idea is that it is much more cost-effective to deal with climate-related adaptation measures first, rather than opening the purse strings afterwards. a tragedy.

“For every dollar we spend on prevention, on stronger infrastructure, we can save up to ten dollars on recovery,” Blair said at a news conference in Prince Edward Island.

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Click to play the video: “More climate change adaptation needed after Storm Fiona: expert”

More climate change adaptation needed after Storm Fiona: expert

Adaptation measures, he says, include reviewing “building codes, where we build, how we build,” as well as efforts “to develop a national flood insurance program” to better inform planning decisions. Better flood mapping is also part of the government’s strategy.

A leading community in this regard is Peterborough, Ontario, about two hours east of Toronto. Nearly twenty years ago, it was badly hit by floods of epic proportions that any resident old enough to have experienced can hardly forget.

Residents described the water as “buckets coming down, not drips.” Another resident said it was “like Niagara Falls.”

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Peterborough officials and residents reflect on 15th anniversary of historic flood

More than 150 millimeters of rain fell on the city in less than an hour that day in July 2004. Since that historic event, Peterborough has worked to improve its infrastructure.

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The city has also received federal funding for flood mapping and emergency response through Ottawa’s National Disaster Mitigation Program.

“Nearly 6,000 hours of work went into it,” says Ian Boland, senior watershed project manager, referring to an integrated flood model his city has undertaken.

The goal, Boland says, is to map “every sewer, storm sewer, catch basin, watercourse” and create a model to both predict and respond to flooding no matter where it occurs in and around it. from the city.

Advanced flood mapping

Sandbags, dykes and pumping stations are what usually come to mind when thinking of community flood response. But these are usually reactive measures.

On the other hand, cities are increasingly adopting innovative and proactive approaches, born of the fact that climate risk is present and growing.

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Heavy rains in southern Alberta spark flooding concerns and flashbacks to 2013 disaster

This is where data and mapping can play a big role.

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Peterborough officials have worked for the past five years with a company called Ecopia AI to collect raw data on various surfaces across the city. This includes impermeable areas like parking lots as well as those that absorb water like parks and grassy areas.

The high-resolution maps generated are then used to create what is called a “hydraulic” model of the city. This approach allows planners to create real-time scenarios that show water flowing over an impermeable surface and calculate the impact it would have on the rest of the city’s storm management system.

It’s a more holistic approach than the traditional way of just studying water flows in, say, a river. More advanced mapping allows them to generate scenarios and plan them appropriately.

But even then, there are uncertainties.

The need for adaptation

Planet Earth is rapidly approaching 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, an average global temperature that, if exceeded, leads to devastating climate effects. Moreover, echoes are mounting that the 1.5C target will simply not be met given the amount of fossil fuels the world continues to burn.

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Enter the need not only to mitigate climate change – that is, to reduce emissions – but also to adapt to the harsh realities of here and now.

The shift towards more adaptation is beginning to gain momentum, including with respect to flooding.

Last August, the federal government released one of its most comprehensive reports on flood risk in Canada.

Western University climate adaptation expert Jason Thistlethwaite works closely with Ottawa on its flood management response and was a key contributor to the report. Cities, he says, are often on the front lines of climate risk and leading the way.

“Municipalities take this very seriously because they are the ones on the front line. They are the ones who suffer the most from physical risk, but have the fewest resources to do anything about it.

There are, he adds, real benefits to taking this job seriously.

“Going forward, we’re going to look at municipalities known for their climate resilience, and their property values ​​will go up because people will want to live there.”

Solutions Needed Now

For those affected by these disasters, the money needed to adapt to the growing problem of climate change cannot come fast enough.

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In British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, farmers whose lands were inundated by a series of atmospheric rivers last fall are still waiting, in some cases, for compensation. This includes dairy farmer Philip Graham.

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‘A parade of storms’: what’s behind all the downpours on the ‘wet coast’ this fall?

“It’s quite frustrating,” he told Global BC of the uncertainty around compensation. “You do all this paperwork, and you hear on the news, ‘Oh yeah, we cover, we help people, we do all of this for everybody.’

“They tell me they haven’t forgotten me.”

Click to play the video: “A comprehensive plan is needed to prevent future flooding in the Fraser Valley”

A comprehensive plan is needed to prevent future flooding in the Fraser Valley

Ottawa has promised $5 billion in flood relief in British Columbia, but that money won’t be delivered overnight. As a result, many flood-prone areas of the province end up with an uneven system of makeshift barriers called orphan dykes.

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In other words, the changes can’t come fast enough because no one knows what the next storm or heat wave will bring.

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Where AI can help fight climate change – and where it can’t

And while it’s impossible to “block” a flood like the one that hit Peterborough in 2004, or the floods that devastated Calgary in 2013, there’s a growing sense that more money is needed to make in the face of new and ever-changing climatic realities. .

In Peterborough, that stronger forward line is already taking shape, and better mapping, Boland says, shows it can be done.

“We didn’t want it to be something,” he says, “that just sits on the shelf.”

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