Mother Nature You’re the One

3 minute read

Mother Nature has created Earth’s most stunning landscapes and picturesque vistas. But if you get on her bad side, watch out – she can deliver devastatingly harsh blows in a matter of hours. Canada’s East Coast was dealt a sucker punch late last month when Hurricane Fiona touched down. Communities are picking up the pieces and impacted families are still coming to grips with their new reality.

Observing the political reaction to Fiona, it is clear that times are changing, and extreme weather is taking on a growing role in political discourse. While climate change has long been a political issue (and sometimes, a wedge), governments at all levels are being forced to respond to, and foot the bill for, a growing number of natural disasters and adverse weather events. 

Canada has seen an increase in wildfires, flooding and heatwaves. This is having a direct impact on Canadians’ livelihoods and many businesses’ operations, and the recovery timeline is a long one; in fact, Ottawa businesses and residents are still scrambling after a storm ripped through the city nearly four months ago. 

Though the solution to mitigating climate change remains a political hot potato, its effects are becoming harder and harder to ignore. For Canada, reconciling climate change advocacy with our natural resource and energy economy is a fine balance. A federal assessment of climate, Canada’s Changing Climate, published in 2019, found that fossil fuel emissions are intensifying tropical storms that originate in the southern Atlantic and move north to the Canadian shore. Hurricane Fiona’s devastation may bring findings like this back into the spotlight as politicians grapple with one of the world’s biggest collective challenges. 

The economic impact of extreme weather events is also a cause for concern. The cost of repairing infrastructure like roads, power grids, wastewater and telecommunications networks are high. Repair bills land at the feet of homeowners and insurance companies, but that system is imperfect. Some people are underinsured, and some insurance company policies refuse to cover “Acts of God”, a term that includes many natural disasters. That coverage (or lackthereof) is another issue politicians are navigating with the industry on a more regular basis.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced the creation of the Hurricane Fiona Recovery Fund. The Fund will provide up to an additional $300 million over two years, starting this year, to help those affected by the storm and to support long-term recovery efforts. The government is also working with the Red Cross to match donations which can be made here.

The reality of Hurricane Fiona is that it will cost all Canadians money, not only those who live in the hurricane’s path. The federal government’s response to this situation was prompt, and for the most part, well-received. The bigger question is, how can Canada better mitigate and improve preparedness for future climate-related natural disasters long term- not just after a disaster has occurred? 

Some will say we should limit our climate action efforts, as Canadians’ greenhouse gas emissions are already fairly low relative to other countries, and Canada already has policies in place to protect our environment. On the other end of the spectrum are those wanting Canada to further cap emissions levels and bring in more aggressive policy measures to reduce Canada’s environmental footprint. The right answer is probably somewhere in the middle, and it will be an issue that politicians, policymakers and experts will continue to debate well into the future.

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