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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House burns in Harewood, three people displaced

Dog unaccounted for after house fire Sunday evening

Man dies in ATV accident south of Nanaimo

Incident happened on backroad Friday night in Nanaimo Lakes area

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: No need to wait to enforce new speed limit in the north end

If safety is the goal, why is there a ‘grace period’ for motorists to adjust, asks letter writer

COVID-19: Uptick in calls to Haven Society crisis line as restrictions ease

Organization reminds people of their range of services

Nanaimo RCMP detachment resumes limited front counter service

Detachment front counter staff now processing police information checks

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

B.C.’s Central Kootenay region declares state of emergency, issues evacuation orders

The evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Most Read