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Opinion

Stop denying, start adapting to global-warming disasters

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2014 (1995 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There are still people out there who think global warming is a myth, and who think the issue of climate change is still open to debate.

You will not find any of them in the CBC/Doc Zone film Weather Gone Wild. Instead, what you'll see in this new hour-long documentary, which airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBC, are scientists, urban designers and, most importantly, ordinary citizens whose experiences with extreme-weather events have removed from their minds all doubt about the reality of climate change.

Recent instances of extreme weather have convinced most people that climate change is real and hazardous to ignore.

CBC

Recent instances of extreme weather have convinced most people that climate change is real and hazardous to ignore.

From torrential rainstorms and flash floods to mid-summer snowstorms, enduring droughts and rampaging wildfires, Canada -- like the rest of the world -- is experiencing an ever-increasing number of severe weather events.

Weather Gone Wild accepts the fact that their frequency is only going to increase, allowing director Melanie Wood to spend most of her time focusing on what needs to be done in order to mitigate the damage caused by those "once-in-however-many-hundred-years" storms that seem to have become commonplace events early in the 21st century.

"It's 'mission critical' for the country," says University of Waterloo professor Blair Feltmate, chairman of Canada's climate-change adaptation project. "We have to weather-harden the system. Climate change will continue to happen; we need to figure out what we're going to do about it."

The answer, according to most of the experts featured in the film, has less to do with prevention than with adaptation.

"It would be foolhardy not to put money into adaptation," International Council for Science president Gordon McBean says in reference to changes being made to Calgary's infrastructure in the aftermath of 2013's disastrous flash floods, "because that kind of flood will happen again and again in the coming climate."

After opening with the requisite newsreel-style review of recent weather-related catastrophes, Weather Gone Wild offers up a few not-so-encouraging predictions for what Canadians can expect, weather-wise, by the year 2050:

Twice as many extreme precipitation events, with more extreme periods of drought in between; five times as many days with temperatures over 30 C; 50 per cent less snowfall across the Prairies; increased frequency of hailstorms; 50 per cent more ice storms; a 100 per cent increase in wildfires.

All of this, say scientists, is the result of a one-degree increase in average temperatures during the past century. And by the end of this century, a further rise of three degrees is expected.

Adaptation, indeed.

Weather Gone Wild focuses its attention on a handful of events and locales -- Alberta and Toronto, which experienced storms and floods in 2013, New York City, which is making massive infrastructure improvements in the wake of hurricane Sandy's damage, and south Florida, which is facing widespread devastation as rising ocean levels begin to swallow up some of its most desirable and densely populated real estate.

But the messages offered by residents and experts in those areas carry a warning that all Canadians -- indeed, all residents of our steadily warming planet -- should consider, even on the loveliest of unseasonably warm autumn days:

Adapt. Plan. Prepare. And when all of those fail, abandon.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 7:40 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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