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#Elxn44: Canadian Voters Demand Mitigation, Adaptation Strategies

drought crops

Our continuing coverage of Canada’s federal election September 20 carries the #Elxn44 tag. You can use the search engine on our site to find other stories in the series.

As Canada approaches the September 20 federal election, climate organizations are looking to candidates for immediate plans for faster, deeper carbon cuts—and to adapt to the climate impacts the country is already seeing.

“This country needs to focus like a laser on bringing down carbon emissions,” Canadian Institute for Climate Choices President Rick Smith told The Energy Mix. And effective adaptation strategies must be woven into that mitigation plan, too, he stressed. 

“Even if we started dramatically reducing carbon levels tomorrow, for a while yet some of that heating is going to continue, and we need to change our approach to climate adaptation by doing simple things.” 

After an early summer heat dome shattered temperature records and tripled the sudden-death rate in British Columbia, the extreme heat and dry conditions sparked a wildfire season that is still blazing. In addition to the forests and communities destroyed, many homeowners and builders are struggling with delays on sale contracts and building permits because insurers have no system for covering buildings with foreseeable fire risk.

“The security Canadians feel in their personal lives has been threatened this summer more than ever before, and they are connecting extreme weather events to climate change,” said Smith. He wants to see election candidates respond to that anxiety by clearly laying out plans to reduce carbon levels, specifying how we are going to adapt as a country, and telling Canadians “how our economy, how our industry are going to need to grow through this unprecedented period of transition.” 

Canada’s prairie provinces—home to much of the nation’s agricultural production—were also affected by what may be the region’s most severe drought on record. The combined high heat and low precipitation devastated crops and forced farmers to sell off livestock. Harvest yield estimates are well below average, and rising food prices are expected to continue increasing through the winter.

Bruce Preston, representing more than 2,000 farmers across Canada as director of Farmers for Climate Solutions, said a failure to immediately curb rising emissions will be catastrophic for the agriculture sector. “We’re on track right now for 3°C warming in the next century, and that will make huge parts of Canada unable to produce crops,” he told The Mix.

Preston would like to see federal parties recognize the potential of agriculture to help achieve climate targets. “We have proven, cost-effective methods of reducing emissions and building resilience in agriculture, and we need public support to implement those practices on as many acres as possible as quicky as possible,” he said. 

Federal candidates can also develop mitigation strategies and help citizens adapt to climate change by supporting other levels of government, said North Vancouver city councillor Jessica McIlroy, board chair at Climate Caucus. “Local government decisions have influence over a significant amount of emissions reduction potential across Canada, but also the social and physical infrastructure needed for everyone’s well-being,” she said.

McIlroy added that local governments need support to invest in community resilience and infrastructure projects, such as retrofitting homes for energy efficiency, decentralizing energy systems to support renewable energy development, and redesigning urban spaces to host more green areas.

“The federal government must look for ways to support local governments directly, and rapidly, on their climate action plans and commitments to social justice,” she said.

Despite this year’s ongoing climate disasters, 13% of Canadian voters do not want to see any climate solutions enacted that might hurt the economy, according to a recent Ipsos survey. However, the idea that necessary climate spending is too much of a stretch for the national budget is “exactly backward,” said Smith, pointing to the billions of dollars Canada already spends each year in damages from extreme weather events.

Current findings in CICC’s research show that the climate transition will be felt across the country, and businesses will need to adapt or “be run over” by the economic changes. However, Smith added, the shift off carbon could also lead to “an unprecedented industrial transition that the Canadian economy can benefit from.”