Buildings, Coastlines, Northern Communities Face Worst Climate Impacts
Buildings, coastlines, and Northern communities in Canada face the most serious risks from climate change, according to a new report produced for the federal Treasury Board by the Council of Canadian Academies.
The report “identifies the top risk areas based on the extent and likelihood of the potential damage, and rates the risk areas according to society’s ability to adapt and reduce negative outcomes,” the CCA said in a release last week. “These 12 major areas of risk are: agriculture and food, coastal communities, ecosystems, fisheries, forestry, geopolitical dynamics, governance and capacity, human health and wellness, Indigenous ways of life, northern communities, physical infrastructure, and water.”
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“The research narrowed down a list of 57 potential environmental effects to six, and ranked them not only by magnitude of the threat, but by the availability of remedies,” CBC reports. “Right at the very top was infrastructure,” with a CCA expert panel concluding that “heavy rains, floods, or high winds are growing threats to buildings, from homes to hospitals. The same extreme weather increases the chance of power outages and grid failures—even what the report calls ‘cascading infrastructure failures’.”
For coastal communities, “climate change is slowly raising sea levels, making floods more common and surges heavier and more powerful,” CBC notes. In the North, “homes and shorelines face unique challenges, such as permafrost melting away underneath them,” while a changing climate threatens an entire way of life.
“They really rely on and are closely connected to the land,” said study co-author Bronwyn Hancock. “The way the culture is set up—governance, spirituality, the way language is passed—all really pivot around that connection to land.”
“We have to start thinking about ways we can protect the natural systems so the human systems can survive,” said expert panel chair John Leggat. While recent reports have suggested Canadians are unwilling to pay for a response to the climate crisis, “we know what to do,” he added. “We understand what the risks are, and we can invest with confidence.”