The costliest ever Canadian extreme weather event 

Photo credit: Reuters / Jesse Winter.

By Anders Lorenzen

Just days after the UN climate talks concluded, Canada was left to pay the costs of climate inaction as the region of British Columbia (BC) was hit by extreme flooding following unseasonably heavy rain. The extreme weather event was just the latest 2021 freak weather event of the kind climate models predict we can expect to witness more often as temperatures continue to rise.

Approximately 18,000 people were left stranded after floods and mudslides destroyed roads, houses and bridges and early estimates suggest this could be the costliest natural disaster in the country’s history. So far just one death has been reported, but the BC Premier John Horgan said the number would most likely increase as the floodwaters receded and the rescue efforts intensified. Ongoing downpours cut access to Vancouver Port (the largest in the country), blocked entire towns in BC and disrupted global supply chains which were already strained from the pandemic.

It is estimated that the event will exceed C$3.6 billion in cost, which is equivalent to the financial losses following the 2016 Alberta wildfires.

Blake Shaffer, an economics professor and specialist in climate policy at the University of Calgary, took to Twitter to explain it would easily be the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

It is believed that the situation was brought about by the massive wildfires and heatwaves in the region during the summer months this year, causing the hills to lack critical vegetation that would have otherwise helped to lessen flooding and landslides. Forecasters are warning the worst might still be to come as forecasts predicted more heavy rain to land during Sunday, and state officials urged people to be aware, warning about the unpredictability that comes with climate change.

While Canada was hit by this latest wave of extreme weather events, the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to back the tar sands extraction projects in neighbouring Alberta – several huge environmentally damaging oil projects which carry the heaviest carbon footprint of any oil extraction.

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