In our 4RG blogs we have commented on mitigation of risks (adaptation) created by a warming climate: severe weather events that result in flooding, and long periods of drought that lead to devastating forests fires.
According to Don Forgeron, the President and CEO of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the annual economic costs of natural disasters around the world has increased fivefold since the 1980s. He recognizes that climate change has had a huge economic effect on Canada.
Glenn McGillivray, the Managing Director of the Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction, was a speaker at our 2012 Climate Change Forum, He warned us that climate risks were increasing in severity and frequency of occurrence. He referred to a forest fire that targeted buildings in a small Albertan town, Slave Lake, causing record damage. He noted that extent of the damage was limited by the size of the town, inferring that much greater damages could result if the fire had taken place in a different locale.
Five years later that locale was Fort McMurray -a horrendous example of the increasing severity of forest fires. The losses were multiples of the amount of the Slave Lake catastrophe. The event clearly pointed out that Federal action was needed.
The Federal Government has now taken a significant step in the 2017 Federal budget to address these risks. It has earmarked $2 billion to be used for several purposes apart from disaster relief: Federal infrastructure to increase preparedness (a new Centre for Climate Services), changes to improve building codes and reduce damages that result from extreme weather events.
In the past, the Federal and Provincial Governments have contributed funds to financially assist municipalities, citizens and businesses that have been impacted by extreme weather events. Presumably these governments will not withdraw from providing disaster assistance, but, given the mitigation steps contemplated by the Federal Budget, the amounts they will contribute in the future will be much less than otherwise.
The announcement by the Minister of Finance was well timed – just before the anniversary of Fort McMurray.