Most Canadian cities have yet to assess the threat posed by climate change despite being the level of government most exposed to the dangers, says a new study. A man walks a dog as mist rises from Lake Ontario during a winter cold snap in Kingston, Ont., on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

‘Bit frightening:’ Study finds most Canadian cities fail on climate change plans

Scientists are increasingly able to attribute extreme weather events to the influence of climate change

A study suggests most Canadian cities have yet to assess the threat posed by climate change despite being the most exposed to any weather disasters it could cause.

A survey of 63 municipalities of all sizes from coast to coast found major gaps in how most are preparing for coming conditions and in how they are reducing their contribution to the problem.

“Cities are the most vulnerable government to climate change in Canada but have the least resources in order to manage the problem, so it’s imperative that they have some strategy or plan,” said Jason Thistlethwaite, a University of Waterloo professor and co-author of the paper published in the journal Climatic Change.

Thistlethwaite and his colleagues measured the plans against 46 indicators that include baseline information, goals, implementation, evaluation and public participation.

“Almost all plans failed to include an assessment of the municipality’s vulnerability to specific climate change impacts,” the paper says.

Only seven communities had identified specific neighbourhoods that might be vulnerable. A dozen identified specific local industries at risk.

Many cities hadn’t done enough research to be able to write a comprehensive plan.

Scientists are increasingly able to attribute extreme weather events to the influence of climate change. And when floods or wildfires destroy lives and property, it’s usually in a city.

“Where are most of our people and property?” Thistlethwaite said. “They’re in cities. There’s a concentration there of exposure.”

Cities are caught in a bind, he said. Not only are they already strapped for cash to fill potholes and run buses, but their main source of income can conflict with the need to plan for climate change.

“Their revenue’s from property taxes, so they want to expand development. When they say they’re going to restrict development in a certain area, that (creates) incredible pressure for them to ignore the advice of their staff.”

READ MORE: Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

The survey concluded that Kingston, Ont., has Canada’s best municipal climate change plan.

It was the result of more than a year’s effort and included computer modelling of what the local climate might look like in 2050. That work concluded that the number of extreme heat days is likely to increase to 30 from four and the number of extreme precipitation events to double to nine.

“That really drives home the point to some people,” said Paul MacLatchy, Kingston’s environment director.

“(It’s) a little bit frightening. Things do change remarkably. The infrastructure we rely on every day is that much harder to keep functioning in a reliable way.”

Failing to plan for climate change has real consequences, said Thistlethwaite.

“You’re likely to see property taxes go up as municipalities are forced to collect more money to pay for damaged infrastructure. You’re likely to see property values go down in areas where there are recurring high risks.”

MacLatchy said Kingston was able to do the work with the help of a program from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Thistlethwaite said cities need more resources to plan for how they will withstand heat waves, ice storms, wildfires and floods.

“We need to see much more leadership from upper tiers of government.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

New, feature-length documentary on missing woman Emma Fillipoff comes out next year

The film follows Fillipoff’s disappearance and the ongoing investigation

Harbour authority to honour Victoria sailor Jeanne Socrates with naming ceremony

In September Socrates became the oldest person to sail around the world in a solo, unassisted trip

Visions Gala attendees step up to raise $1M for Victoria hospitals

Money goes towards purchasing critically needed imaging equipment

VIDEO: The sticky truth about winter moths and how Greater Victoria arborists fight them

Winter moths have ‘killed a lot of trees’ across the region, says Oak Bay arborist

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

EDITORIAL: It’s time to face the truth on drug use

The homeless don’t own the drug epidemic

B.C. petition calls for seat belts in new school buses

Agassiz bus driver collects 124,000 signatures in support

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Most Read