With country-wide floodwater emergencies and extreme weather events like Calgary’s recent $1-billion hailstorm foreshadowing far worse to come, experts are calling for the creation of a “robust 21st-century strategy on water.”
Writing in a recent op-ed for the Globe and Mail, Thomas Axworthy, public policy chair at the University of Toronto, and John Pomeroy, director of the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Water Futures, note that frequent and violent inundations are now a “fact of life” for Canadians, making it imperative to launch an “immense national effort to anticipate, prepare, adapt, and mitigate” in the face of such disasters.
“In 2019, the financial cost of climate change to taxpayers and insurers was $1.3 billion, and this cost will expand exponentially, according to the science-based forecasts of accelerating extreme weather,” the authors write, citing Parliamentary Budget Office calculations. Immediate investment both to upgrade national flood mapping data and to utilize the very best in hydrological modelling is critical if the country is to grasp “the true risk of future flooding.” Upgrades to critical infrastructure will also be needed.
Axworthy and Pomeroy find cause for optimism in Ottawa’s 2019 decision to create a federal agency to develop such a policy. At present, “more than 20 agencies or departments in the federal government have units dedicated to some aspects of the water puzzle, none of which have a specific focus on water policy advocacy or accountability,” they write. A Canada Water Agency would address that gap.
Meanwhile, in the United States, “the first-ever public evaluation of flood risk for every property in the 48 contiguous states has found that federal maps underestimate the number of homes and businesses in significant danger by 67%,” reports Bloomberg Green.
Released last week by the research and technology non-profit First Street Foundation, the evaluation “is a virtually unprecedented disclosure of how much damage climate change can be expected to inflict at the level of individual homes,” Bloomberg states. The report predicts that, by 2050, “the number of at-risk properties will grow by another 11%, or 1.6 million,” with coastal communities in Delaware, Louisiana, and New Jersey in particular danger.