Natural disasters aren’t as natural as they used to be

Natural disasters strike around the world, but in the second half of 2021, British Columbia has had more than its fair share, starting with a heat wave that was the “deadliest weather event in Canadian history,” according to Sarah Henderson, chief scientist for the BC Center for Disease Control, while provincial health minister Adrian Dix described it as a “one-on-one event. 1,000 years “. Upon 500 people died as a direct result of extreme temperatures.

A victim of the BC heat dome it was the town of Lytton. David phillips, senior climatologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, referring to the devastation of the heat wave, lamented that “it is almost biblical.” On June 29, for the third day in a row, temperatures soared again, and Lytton baked below 49.6 C.

Never before has a temperature of -50 C been seen above the 50th parallel north (Lytton = 50 ° 13 ′ 52 ″ N). Lytton made front-page news around the world, appearing on the guardian, BBC, CNN and the Washington Post, among others, and trends on Twitter, including tweets from the World Meteorological Organization, UNFCCC and Greta thunberg, to name a few.

Then on June 30, a wildfire engulfed Lytton.

While on his way to the COP26 summit in Glasgow on November 1, Justin trudeau spoke of the tragedy:

“In Canada, there was a city called Lytton. I say “was” because on June 30 it burned to the ground. The day before, the temperature had reached 49.6 C, the hottest ever recorded in our country ”.

However, its reference to “it was a town” caused a stir among its proud residents, as the devastated town was to be rebuilt, which was confirmed by the town council on November 8 in the Lytton Community Meeting.

But there was still more to come for British Columbia.

This time, the “natural” disaster was not a heat dome, but a atmospheric river, with many areas of southern BC receiving a month of rain in just two days (from November 13 to November 14). Prime Minister John Hogan described the flooding in the region as a “event that occurs once in 500 years. ” the rainfall record caused fatal floods and landslides; Main roads were washed away and travelers were stranded, some for days.

Just two weeks later, the atmospheric river returned last weekend with more record of rains and floods, spreading chaos in southern BC Y Environment Canada has now warned of heavy rains for the north of Vancouver Island and the central coast for the next few days.

Opinion: Climate change doesn’t directly light fires, it causes a heat dome or an atmospheric river, but climate change makes extreme weather worse and more likely. Natural disasters are not as natural as they used to be, writes @GeraldKutney.

Climate change it is a factor in these extreme weather events. An op-ed on the Lytton tragedy was titled “Climate change is killing us.” And another article, “That heat dome? Yes it’s climate change, ”It was written by climate experts Michael E. Mann and Susan Joy Hassol:

“Could a heat dome have developed in the west last week without climate change? Sure. Could it have been as extreme as what we are witnessing without climate change? Almost certainly not … With this latest heat wave, Canada saw its hottest day on record: 116 degrees in British Columbia … Science is clear on how human-caused climate change is already affecting heat waves. hot “.

Several studies have also found influences from climate change atmospheric rivers. Yale scientists recently reported:

“While the 20-millimeter-per-month increase in precipitation itself is significant, perhaps the greatest impact comes from increases in extremes … Atmospheric rivers already pose significant storm and flood hazards, but these dangers are expected increase dramatically. “

Of course, British Columbia is not the only region affected by extreme weather events. According to POT, globally, “there were 22 weather and climate-related disasters last year when the overall damages / costs for each reached or exceeded $ 1 billion”, and science has found that climate change was linked to the most of them. The article concluded: “There is growing confidence that human-induced climate change is making extreme events statistically much more likely.”

The weather has always been unpredictable, but with climate change, more communities will be subject to extreme disasters with greater frequency. What was once in a lifetime can happen once every decade. We are learning the hard and painful way how costly adaptation will be, as we continually fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Along the way, we will likely be exposed to ever newer weather terms to add to those we are now familiar with: heat dome, atmospheric river or pineapple express, polar vortex, cyclone bomb, or weather bomb, which sound like they are from. a bass. -Budget disaster or science fiction movie instead of real life.

Of course, climate change does not directly ignite fires or cause a heat dome or atmospheric river, but climate change makes extreme weather worse and more likely. Natural disasters are not as natural as they used to be.

The problem of these not so natural meteorological phenomena was recognized in the recent throne speech:

“Our Earth is in danger. From the warming Arctic to the increasing devastation of natural disasters, our land and our people need help …

“As we speak, the people of British Columbia face immeasurable challenges as their homes, communities and well-being are affected by terrible flooding …

And to address the realities already facing communities across the country, the government will also strengthen actions to prevent and prepare for floods, wildfires, droughts, coastal erosion, and other extreme weather events worsened by climate change. The government will be there to rebuild the communities devastated by these events. This will include the development of Canada’s first National Adaptation Strategy. “

Adaptation is necessary, not just for Canada, but globally, as mitigation policies have been implemented too slowly in most of the developed world. However, mitigation is still mandatory, unless we want to keep spending money on adaptation forever.

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