The wild storm on Wednesday night animated Blair Feltmate’s warning to an audience at St. Thomas University that Canada needs to build a weather-ready nation.
Feltmate, a professor at the University of Waterloo, spoke as part of the McKenna Centre for Communications and Public Policy Distinguished Speaker Series. He told the crowd of approximately 80 people that climate change is real and it would be nearly impossible to reverse its effects.
“We’ve removed an area of forest from the earth slightly larger than the United States of America,” Feltmate said. “That’s gone for good. Paved over.”
Specifically, Feltmate’s talk focused on floods because he called the “biggest monkey in the room” the fact that there is too much water.
He warned that Canadians will soon no longer be able to afford the effects of this, focusing on the property and home insurance sector.
“If any industry is on the forefront of addressing the challenges of climate change, it’s the insurance sector,” Feltmate said. “They’re not the canary in the coalmine – they’re the ostrich in the coalmine.”
Feltmate said the country needs to be thinking about adapting infrastructure on two scales if it continues to use fossil fuels.
“Maybe there’s not going to be water here now but there might be 25 or 50 years down the road,” he said. “Let’s adapt to the current challenges… but also we have to use models to forward project what the weather’s going to be like in the future and build that into our system.”
Feltmate proposed solutions to these natural disaster issues, including up-to-date flood plain maps, the concept of the Home Adaptation Assessment Program, and building codes and upgrades.
His lecture left the audience with the overall idea that not adapting to climate change is not an option. Feltmate stressed that it is time to forget the talk and act quickly.
“We need to build a weather-ready Canada right now,” Feltmate said. “Not 25 years from now, not 50 years from now, not 75 years from now. We have a formidable challenge on the table at this moment and we need to embrace adaptation currently.”
Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.