Canada needs to brace for wave of eco-refugees in future, climate scientist says

Extreme heat is here to stay and we need to prepare for more of it to come, says a climate scientist who suggests rising temperatures could lead to eco-refugees making their way to Canada in the decades to come.

'We are going to see people migrating by the millions,' says U of Waterloo's Blair Feltmate

By 2040, temperatures are expected to reach as high as 44 C in Canada, according to climate scientist Blair Feltmate.
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Rising temperatures could lead to eco-refugees making their way to Canada in the decades to come, according to a University of Waterloo climate scientist.

"We are going to see a mass migration of eco-refugees. People that are currently in locations — that in the not too distant future — they will not be able to survive there," Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, told The Current's guest host Megan Williams.

"We are going to see people migrating by the millions."

This summer has had several bouts of extreme heat globally and Canada-wide. It's a reality that Feltmate says Canada needs to adapt to. 

"By 2040, the projections are that we will max out at about 44 C," he said.

Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, says it's important to acknowledge past weather patterns are not a predictor of the future. (uwaterloo.ca)

Geographically, Canada is an ideal location for people who are disenfranchised, Feltmate said.

"It's empty. We have 36 million people," he said, adding that the country is also rich with resources like timber, minerals and water.

And while Canada isn't starting from scratch when it comes to preparing for pending eco-refugees, Feltmate said there's a lot of work to do.

"We need to be making calculations as to what numbers of people can we expect to come here; what criteria do we use to determine who gets in and who doesn't get in?" 

"And when they do come here, where are they going to go?"

Other guests The Current spoke to on the consequences of current heat waves globally are:

  • Marcus Franberg, a journalist and farmer in Björsjö, Sweden. Due to the recent heatwave and forest fires, he has been forced to slaughter and move his farm animals.
  • Glen Kenny, director of the Human and Environmental Physiology Research Unit at the University of Ottawa, who studies the human body's capacity to deal with heat stress.

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


This segment was produced by The Current's Alison Masemann, Richard Raycraft and Jessica Linzey.

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