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

Fundraising conference, concert on deck for Comox Valley Transition Society

Women Who Inspire Conference and Concert at Filberg Centre March 1

Changes recommended for four Comox Valley schools to ease capacity

Possible measures include cross-boundary transfer closures, modular buildings

North Island College students serving up food and wine at 40 Knots

North Island College tourism and hospitality and culinary students teaming up with… Continue reading

MARS Wildlife Rescue gets help from local children

The new Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) visitor centre in Merville has… Continue reading

Valley-filmed mini-series honoured with Canadian Screen Award nomination

Actor Shawn Doyle was nominated in the Best Lead Actor category for Unspeakable

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Comox Valley Beefs & Bouquets for week of Feb. 18

More beefs to the tip-expecting server; a bouquet to BC Transit

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett says they can be in Smithers Thursday

Province shows no interest in proposed highway between Alberta and B.C.

Province says it will instead focus on expanding the Kicking Horse Canyon to four lanes

Victoria police ask victims of human trafficking to come forward after Saskatchewan arrests

Four people from Vancouver Island were arrested in Saskatchewan on Jan. 28

First case of COVID-19 in B.C. has fully recovered, health officer says

Three other cases are symptom-free and expected to test negative soon

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

Island wildlife rescue centre sees 9 poisoned birds since January

MARS trying to fundraise for ‘rigorous and expensive’ lead poisoning treatment

Via Rail lays off 1,000 employees temporarily as anti-pipeline blockades drag on

The Crown corporation has suspended passenger trains on its Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto

Most Read