The fires that scorched swaths of Fort McMurray, Alberta, exacerbated by conditions linked to climate change, hinted at what's in store for Canada in years to come as the effects of climate change continue to worsen, provoking more extreme weather events.
We're not ready for what's coming, according to an audit released by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on Tuesday, which examined federal support for mitigating the effects of extreme weather events. The results weren't great.
Ottawa spent more money recovering from natural disasters in the last six fiscal years than in the previous 39 combined, according to the report. Despite this, "the federal government [has] not done enough to help mitigate the anticipated impacts of severe weather events," the report concludes.
"Homes and other buildings […] may not be strong enough to withstand climates in the decades to come"
Particularly unsettling are revelations that the government's flood hazard assessment guidelines (developers perform hazard assessments to decide where to build) haven't been updated since 1996—a full 20 years ago—and the National Building Code doesn't currently account for severe weather brought on by climate change. "Homes and other buildings built to withstand our current climate may not be strong enough to withstand climates in the decades to come," the report states. "This could have possible safety repercussions."
Basically, we're screwed.
In response to the report's findings, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Public Safety Canada, and the National Research Council have all agreed to update Canada's climate data archive, its flood hazard guidelines, and its building codes, respectively.
The effects of climate change are already being felt in Canada. That the Northwest Passage, once nearly impassable due to ice, will see a carnivalesque cruise ship power through its waters later this year is just one darkly humorous, yet dystopian, example.
Less funny is the $40 million earmarked in the 2016 federal budget to "integrate climate resilience into building design guides and codes."
While some research hubs, like the WindEEE wind testing facility in London, Ontario, are researching the effects of destructive weather on infrastructure, it's looking like most of Canada has fallen behind in climate preparedness.
That had better change soon if we want to be ready for what's coming.