PM Harper likes to say that it will be costly to fight climate change, but he conveniently ignores the costs that climate change itself is reaping (or has the potential to reap). A year-end report from Environment Canada points at some of the current financial costs associated with climate change. The top story is the shrinking arctic ice cap, and there are many other tales of climate oddities, with their own associated costs that were not tallied, but it is the references to hard numbers that caught my attention.
On BC’s narrowly-averted Spring flooding:
The Fraser Valley avoided a catastrophe when cooler temperatures returned and a soppy storm diverted away at the last moment, sparing thousands of hectares of farm and residential land, avoiding the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents and saving an estimated cost-loss of $6 billion.
To benchmark that, $6 billion is equivalent to about 4% of the BC economy.
On extreme weather and agriculture in the Prairies:
Residents on the Prairies witnessed a record number of severe summer weather warnings, with tornadoes, intense rainfalls, wind storms and hail storms. August’s destructive hailstorm in Dauphin, Manitoba, for example, was only one of 279 hailers that affected the Prairies in 2007. Crop-hail losses approached $200 million and, for the first time, exceeded premiums.
… Abundant spring rains followed by excessive heat and humidity and an active jet stream was the perfect recipe for violent weather. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the most number of summer severe weather events ever (410 in total) eclipsing the previous high of 297 set only last year. Especially frequent were the number of hail events, setting record numbers for all three provinces.
It was a “hail” of a summer for the insurance sector. Summer storms pulverized crops, battered homes and businesses and pockmarked vehicles at a rate not seen in more than a decade. According to the Canadian Crop Hail Association, Albertans filed over 4,700 crop-related hail claims – the highest ever by far, exceeding $60 million or 27 per cent more than that collected from premiums. Saskatchewan counted nearly 14,000 crop-damaged hail claims, exceeding the five-year average but lower than the total recorded in 2006. Total payouts were estimated at $115 million for an 87 per cent loss-to-premium ratio. Hail storms were so frequent in Saskatchewan that many farmers reported multiple hits, especially in the Kindersley and Biggar area. In some instances, the first claim was still being settled when hailers struck a second or third time. The frequency of storms was up and so was the severity. In places, crops were totaled and property damage was extensive to homes, vehicles and farm equipment. Next door in Manitoba, crop claims topped $14 million, shattering the previous record of $10.6 million in 2002. Total claims were just shy of 5,000, which was very close to the record in 2000.
The most spectacular hailer occurred on August 9 in Dauphin, Manitoba and nearby communities. The 30-minute storm featured a multitude of lightning flashes, intense rain, screaming winds and enormous hailstones – some the size of grapefruits. Around Grandview, Roblin and Ste. Rose, it took only minutes to destroy healthy crops only days from harvest. In Dauphin, the storm triggered about 13,000 claims to Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) with an estimated loss of $53 million – one of the single largest catastrophic events in MPI history. More than 60 per cent of damaged vehicles in town were total write-offs.
… On June 5, a one-hour severe thunderstorm centred on Calgary generated instant flooding, swamping vehicles and inundating homes. Several people paddled in rubber rafts along downtown streets as waves swirled in flooded intersections. Emergency crews waded into waist-deep waters to rescue motorists trying to float vehicles. At a cemetery, flood waters damaged 200 graves and washed away a number of precious mementos. Estimated losses totaled $10 million to flooded basements and roadways. Rainfall intensities approached 100 mm in 18 hours, nearing 100 year-returns.
… On January 10, the most intense blizzard in half a century struck Saskatoon and region, claiming four lives and marooning the entire city in a humongous whiteout. Officially, Saskatoon received only 17 cm of snow with some surrounding areas getting 28 cm. However, it was the powerful winds that blew snow into monstrous waist-high drifts and lowered visibility to zero for hours that created such dire conditions. Many residents said it was the most frightening time of their lives. Total cleanup costs approached $1 million. On the heels of the blizzard, frigid Arctic winds pushed temperatures into the -30°s with a windchill of -46 causing scores of frostbitten patients to show up at hospital emergency departments.
On a freak storm in PEI:
Repair costs to electricity lines and towers in Prince Edward Island exceeded $1.5 million and were expected to take months to complete. Maritime Electric said it was by far the worst storm the utility has seen since the 1970s, if not the worst ever.
- Climate justice and the political moment in BC (April 5th, 2013)
- Absolving our Carbon Sins: the Case of the Pacific Carbon Trust (April 2nd, 2013)
- The dubious case for casinos (January 22nd, 2013)
- Marc’s Letter from 2040 (December 14th, 2012)
- State of the BC Economy (December 5th, 2012)