In the morning, Kim Cardinal opened the door outside her laundry room to see Nicola River running higher than she had ever seen before.
Telephone poles shaped like logs dampen its fast current. If she lay on the ground outside the door of her laundry room, her hair would also fall into the river.
“This river just isn’t going very well,” she says in a video of the scene she sent to her daughter, Michelle Thibodeau.
Eight hours after the video was taken, the cardinal called his daughter again, crying that the river had breached its banks, and the pump house on their property had given way to the river’s flow. Then the call got cut, and he didn’t have contact with his daughter again until the next afternoon.
By that time, she had camped on high ground on a snow-covered highway outside Spence Bridge, BC, in the trailer she now shares with Michelle’s father and their horses, peacocks, chickens, dogs, and cats. Was.
His dream house on the Nikola River, which he had bought only last year, was completely submerged in water.
“I’m glad they didn’t get carried away,” Michelle told Starr this week. “All I felt was that the house was not going to stay.
“The power of water is insane.”
This is just one small example – a family’s life turned upside down – amid widespread devastation in a country whose communities were built for an environment that no longer exists.
It may be a little consolation for someone who has just lost everything, as Kim Cardinal did in this week’s unprecedented B.C. storm, but a lot of people shared the same anguish. The full scale of the destruction is not yet known, but includes thousands of flooded homes and businesses, farmers’ fields turned into lakes, and innumerable landslides that ripped away highway bridges, sweeping cars and their occupants.
B.C.’s atmospheric river storm was not the only unprecedented weather emergency in the province in a year that has also seen months of wildfires that devastated the entire village of Lytton, and a heat dome that has killed more than 600 people. brought scorching temperatures.
The devastation happened in the context of a human-altered climate that we are witnessing across the country. Major floods have forced residents to flee towns in Quebec; Hamilton’s coastline has been damaged by the storm; And Churchill’s famous polar bear, Mann., is expanding its migration as sea ice recedes.
Of all the climate change impacts on Canada so far, however, the scale of the destruction in BC this year has left the country facing the most obviously harsh reality: the vital transport links for our homes, communities and each other. All are vulnerable, each a climate disaster far from complete destruction.
Canada was built for our old climate and, from west to east, Canada is collapsing, one disaster at a time.
How can we make it back to last, and keep us safe?
It’s a question that often looms large in conversations about how to reduce emissions. But experts in the field of climate adaptation say it is high time Canada undertakes the massive task of rebuilding the country for our new climate.
“We are thinking of catching up. Our building codes, standards, guide books – everything was done for an era that no longer exists,” said Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, a non-profit organization. called a for-profit research group that assesses the risks associated with climate change, earthquakes and health crises.
“It’s a really, really tall order.”
Estimates of Canada’s “infrastructure shortage” – Canada not yet spending to keep its infrastructure up to date – range from $110 billion to $270 billion, according to an organization that advocates for infrastructure improvements and Collects guesses from thinking. -Tanks and Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
MacGillivray said ensuring that all public infrastructure as well as private property – new buildings, dykes, roads, bridges, farms and homes are built for our climate – could raise that bill even more.
B.C.’s minister of public safety and the federal minister of natural resources both acknowledged the difficult and costly road ahead this week, with B.C.’s Mike Farnsworth saying “it’s going to be more terrible the cost” of B.C.’s repairs, and natural resources. Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said that, when the time comes to rebuild from this flood disaster, infrastructure will need to be made more resilient.
And a plan is underway. Since 2016, the federal government has been working on a national plan to adapt to climate change, and to update standards for building critical infrastructure such as roads, highway bridges, water and electrical systems, Also working for resilience against specific natural disasters. Like fire and flood.
The project aimed to meet those standards by this year. Some guidance reports, including one on best practices for flood-risk reduction, and a technical guide to flood-resistant buildings, were published in 2021. national adaptation strategy, which will set out the responsibilities of all levels of governments in preparedness and response to climate-related disasters, will not be finalized until the end of next year.
Meanwhile, past building codes, according to the Government of Canada’s own website, are leaving the country’s most important transportation links and resource services vulnerable to disaster.
That’s because they were based on historical climate data that doesn’t stand out anymore, and, “in many cases, this resulted in properties that weren’t designed to withstand the extreme weather events we’re currently seeing.” Let’s leave the future, the effects of climate change.
In the plain language of the government infrastructure plan announcement, “assets” are what are at stake.
But real life is dirtier and more terrifying. And lives are at stake, as well as property.
Kelly Gaba has already seen how climate events can kill.
Her 90-year-old grandmother, Annie Brown, whom she called her maternal grandfather, was living in an apartment building in North Vancouver when a heat dome hit large areas of BC this summer. Gaba checked on her several times on the phone, and a neighbor noticed, but no one in the family knew how hot the senior’s apartment had become—or just how dangerous it was—until it was too late.
Annie Brown died of a heat-related heart attack in June after her body was found by a neighbor.
Gaba said he was clearly reminded of the damage this week when he saw the aftermath of the floods. One death has been confirmed; Many others are missing. She said she believes that if our society had adapted better to climate change, her maternal grandparents and hurricane victims could have been helped.
“It is certainly the case that global warming has happened. Now we are in flood and we are on fire, and no, we are not prepared. We can be better prepared,” she said.
Gaba said that when she arrived at her maternal grandfather’s rental apartment after her death, she was “cooking” and Brown, who was suffering from arthritis, could not walk down the stairs. This made him realize that relatively simple things, such as mandating rental managers to cool buildings the way they needed to turn on the heat in the winter, could save Brown, as well as people like him. For more education can tell about how dangerous the heat is to the elderly.
She said that if she had known how risky it was, she would have gone to her maternal grandmother’s apartment and found ways to cool it, or looked for a portable AC unit first, before it lacked a heat dome.
“The (government) has a lot of power to change the building code. They have the information to give us a good outline of the kind of global-warming challenges we are facing. People are dying right now.”
Joanna Iquam, managing director of climate-resilient infrastructure at the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation, spends much of her time thinking of ways to save people like Annie Brown from losing their lives, and people like Kim Cardinal and Lorne Thibodeau. To save life from being lost. homes.
The good news is that this is not a new challenge from an engineering point of view. We know how to improve buildings to keep seniors cool, and how to build bridges that can better withstand mudslides. Only about 20 percent of IQEM’s work on developing best practices for dealing with climate disasters is technical.
“Eighty percent of the challenge,” she said, “is what (best practices) are being used.”
For example, Eyquem is getting ready to release a guidance document on what individuals, communities and all levels of government can do to protect against extreme heat events, such as the murder of Annie Brown. This includes individual actions, such as checking on superiors; community work, such as planning cooling stations; And adding “green infrastructure” such as too many trees that can shade and cool cement-heavy cities.
But for such a potentially life-saving road map to work, it needs to permeate all levels of government, and he worries it will not be received with the urgency it deserves.
McGillivray has seen similar challenges with political will on climate adaptation.
There are two main reasons for this. One is that Canada is made up of many small communities, not all of which have the ability to assess all of their infrastructure without top-down help from the province or federal government. The second is that climate resilience is costly and does not always seem necessary.
Both Eyquem and McGillivray say they hope the layered crisis in BC presents an overdue wake-up call, and brings more urgency to the nascent climate-adaptation initiative…