'Wetter, warmer and stormier' weather ahead, expert says
Paul Kovacs of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction says 'time to prepare is now' for climate change
New Brunswickers, and others living in the Atlantic Canada, need to get used to "wetter, warmer and stormier" weather in the future, according to an expert in severe weather.
Paul Kovacs, the executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, based at the University of Western Ontario, says all the research points to dramatic climate changes in the coming decades.
He says those changes will affect all parts of Canada but Atlantic Canada could see some of the strangest weather, including long stretches of extremely hot temperatures.
"Climate change will make Atlantic Canada increasingly wetter, warmer and stormier," Kovacs said.
"And the time to prepare is now."
The institute's goal is to reduce the loss of life and property damage from severe weather. The group works with experts and government officials "to advance peoples' ability to adapt to climate extremes and prevent loss from natural disasters."
The insurance industry funds much of its work. The institute has a team of 30 scientists and 100 students doing research.
Kovacs spoke last week at the climate change meeting for premiers held in Quebec City.
He took the provincial leaders through some of the projections for temperatures and warned them that in the coming years — 25, 50 and 75 years — their communities will face extremely warm temperatures.
For example, instead of the occasional hot day, the forecast shows long stretches of temperatures of 30 C, 35 C and even 40 C.
Kovacs said one study showed Fredericton, and eight other Canadian cities, had about a dozen days a year when the temperature was above 30 C.
"Within the next 40, 45 years we'll see twice as many days during the summer where it gets up that high, and higher," he said.
"By the end of the century, maybe four times as many days where it gets that hot. And there's research that shows when it gets that hot, it can be dangerous."
Kovacs said the temperature will be hotter than ever before and that will pose a significant risk to people.
He says that means more seniors — who don't have air conditioning or who don't have the health status that allows them to cope with extreme heat — are more likely to die from the heat.
He says communities need to plan now for cooling centres and even simpler, more economical measures, such as making hours at public pools more flexible to accommodate people who need to cool off.
Green Party Leader David Coon says Kovac's message in Quebec was startling and can't be ignored by the provincial government.
"The costs it imposes on us just in terms of damage to infrastructure is tremendous as a result of the storms we're getting, the heavy rains we're getting," Coon said.
Kovac said his research has led him to believe that Canada has already passed the point of no return when it comes to climate change.
"We are starting to see signs that we are getting up above thresholds where it cannot be reversed so we are very concerned," Kovacs said.
"There's a global discussion saying that if the world's temperature goes above two degrees. Canada's already had changes that are approaching two degrees. If the world's temperature gets above two degrees, it's probably not reversible."