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

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

COVID-19: Isolation exemptions to frontline workers a danger to patients, say Island Health employees

Staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel according to Island Health

North Island community groups are adapting due to COVID-19

‘The coronavirus and its effects make this a challenging time for us all’

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Funding has been denied for Port Hardy’s much anticipated Multiplex Pool Project

‘reviewing alternatives and opportunities in the coming months to address the aging infrastructure’

Evening world update: U.S. restrictions extended 30 days; NY deaths near 1,000

Comprehensive world update, with the latest developments in the COVID-19 crisis

‘It’s up to us: Recently-returned B.C. couple urges Canadians to take COVID-19 seriously

Garrett Kucher and Tory Apostoliuk make it home after almost a week of lockdown in Spain

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

Speed, alcohol not ruled out as factors in crash that left one person dead

Police watchdog, Campbell River Major Crimes Unit are investigating

Canada will make sure masks sent by China meet quality standards: Trudeau

Chinese Embassy tweeted that China was sending 30,000 medical masks along with gowns, gloves and goggles

B.C. issues guidelines about distancing, reusable bags to grocery stores amid COVID-19

Hand sanitizer and markers to keep lines two metres are apart are needed, province says

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

Most Read