Climate change is posing a serious threat to Canada — and B.C. in particular, intelligence service says

Significant parts of the province could be lost to rising sea levels, according to CSIS

Image | Special Committee 20230206

Caption: Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, adjusts a translation aid as he waits to appear before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

Canada's spy agency says climate change is threatening the nation's prosperity and security, and has identified British Columbia as a region of particular concern.
A newly released analysis by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that was prepared in April 2021 and only recently disclosed to The Canadian Press spells out several concerns presented by global warming.
They include looming threats to water and food security, Arctic sovereignty, and coastal security — the latter of which could greatly impact British Columbians.
According to the report, rising sea levels could cause "irretrievable loss of infrastructure and even entire communities" with the potential to destroy "significant parts" of the westernmost province.
Taking steps to lessen the severity of flood and weather risks may be impractical, and buying insurance or rebuilding after a calamity will simply be too expensive in some cases, the brief says.
CSIS does not detail what regions will be hardest hit, but according to the provincial government, three quarters of B.C.'s population lives along the coast.

Preparing for sea-level rise

"This report is is sobering, but it's not a surprise," said Melissa Lem, president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).
"We know that if we continue with business as usual that climate change will have wide-ranging effects on every aspect of society."
Vancouver city planners estimate that sea levels could rise up to two metres in the next 80 years.

Image | Construction of new St. Paul's Hospital

Caption: The new St. Paul's Hospital is being built to withstand future floods as concern over rising sea levels grows. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lem, speaking Thursday on The Early Edition, said rising sea levels are already affecting the province's health-care system. She said plans to construct the new St. Paul's Hospital in city are already buffering for this reality.
"They're planning to raise the lot by over a meter to protect this new $1.9-billion facility, but unfortunately everything around it is still going to be flooded when a severe weather event happens," said Lem.

'We haven't seen anything yet': CAPE president

British Columbians are no strangers to severe weather events in recent years, including raging wildfires, catastrophic floods, marine heat waves and a horrific heat dome that killed over 600 people in summer 2021.
CSIS anticipates a higher risk of animal-borne diseases, loss of arable land and shrinking freshwater resources is coming. 
Human migration might also grow to unprecedented volume due to newly uninhabitable territory, extreme weather events, drought and food shortages, and human conflict zones, CSIS says.


Caption: A family uses a boat to see their home which is submerged in floodwater in the Sumas Prairie flood zone in Abbotsford, B.C., in November 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The spy service is also predicting an increase in ideologically motivated violent extremism from people who want to speed up climate change solutions and those more interested in preserving their current way of life.
"If you think the social disruptions we saw during the pandemic were dramatic, we haven't seen anything yet compared to climate change," said Lem.

Listen to stewards of the land: Indigenous leaders

When it comes to tackling climate change, Indigenous leaders say it is critical to listen to Indigenous people who have been stewards of the land, now known as British Columbia, since time immemorial.
Eli Enns, president and CEO of the IISAAK Olam Foundation — a non-profit educational organization focused on Indigenous-led conservation — said when the Sumas Prairie region of Abbotsford flooded in November 2021, it came as no surprise to elders of the Sumas First Nation, who predicted and warned such a flood would occur after an existing lake there was drained in the 1920s to create farmland.

Media Audio | The Early Edition : Climate Panel: climate change threatens Canadian security, prosperity, warns CSIS brief

Caption: Newly-disclosed documents from CSIS warn that climate change is a threat to Canada's national security. And young Canadians are sharing how climate change is affecting their outlook. Our Climate Panel is back to take a look at some of the news of the week.

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"We undermine the resiliency of an environment by not respecting the Indigenous peoples of the land," said Enns, also speaking Thursday on CBC Radio.
The B.C. government did commit $100 million Monday to protecting freshwater sources in the province in partnership with First Nations.
Indigenous-led conservation efforts are not only critical to protecting the planet, said Enns, but also B.C.'s young people.
B.C.'s Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness also said in the statement that the province's latest budget includes more than $1 billion in spending to fight climate change by building more climate-resilient communities.
The province said it will release a flood strategy for B.C. this year, which will include floodplain mapping, "so that future investments in flood risk reduction are made efficiently to better protect people and communities."
A new study from Lakehead University in Ontario that surveyed 1,000 Canadians aged 16 to 25 showed 80 per cent of respondents' mental health had been impacted by climate change. Nearly half think humanity is doomed.
"If the adults in the room were getting along with each other and working toward the benefit of all of our children and grandchildren, it would inspire more sense of hope," said Enns.