ACT Release: September 4, 2009

For Immediate Release
September 4, 2009

Climate Change Causing Extreme Weather in Canada to Get Worse
Increased Damage, Risk to Life and Costs to Climb Unless We Adapt – Study.

It’s true: The weather is getting worse.

Southern Ontario’s recent encounter with deadly twisters was just one extreme event in an apparently endless string of unusual or record-breaking weather across Canada.

From unprecedented snowfall in Atlantic Canada, to a devastating flood in Manitoba, relentless heat and forest fires in British Columbia, Canada has a well-earned reputation for a severe climate. Scientific studies conclude that extreme weather is becoming more frequent and intense as a result of climate change. A new study conducted by the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) of Simon Fraser University maps out how Canadian communities must adapt to these increasing risks.

The report, funded by international consulting, engineering and project management company AMEC and entitled Climate Change Adaptation and Extreme Weather: Making Canada’s Communities More Resilient to the Impacts of Climate Change, was authored by Gordon McBean, Director of Policy Studies of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and Professor at The University of Western Ontario, and Dan Henstra, Assistant Professor of public administration and local government at the University of Windsor. It is the result of three multi-stakeholder conferences and a comprehensive review of the literature undertaken over the last six months, which were funded by major insurer Zurich Canada and BC’s Ministry of Environment.

The report’s main argument: the increasing risks posed by the weather demand climate adaptation policies that will allow us to strengthen our capacity to deal with the fallout. Otherwise, we’re increasingly sitting ducks.

“Canadians spend many millions per year to clean up after these extreme weather events,” says Gordon McBean, “and the cost is going up every year. Displacement, trauma and risk to life will only increase unless we undertake a coordinated, comprehensive program of disaster risk reduction across the board, at the community, provincial and federal level.”

McBean and Henstra outline recommendations for all three levels of government, including a call for a National Climate Action Centre and establishment of an integrated National Public Alerting System and Climate Information Service that will ensure emergency response organizations and individuals receive timely warnings of climate hazards. This echoes a call from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who, in the wake of the death of 11-year-old Owen McPherson from lightning, expressed a determination to improve extreme weather warnings to prevent further tragedies.

The authors will join ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford and Western Professor Gregory Kopp at a news conference at 11:00 a.m., Wednesday September 9, 2009 at Western’s Insurance Research Laboratory for Better Homes, also known as the Three Little Pigs Research Project, to discuss the findings.

The multi-million dollar Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes is a state of the art research facility designed to examine all aspects of house construction, including duress from harsh weather conditions such as the tornadoes that damaged structures across southern Ontario two weeks ago. The ultimate aim of the research is to improve construction techniques to make communities more resilient to natural hazards and more energy efficient in the coming decades.

For more information, please contact Michelle Harper, ACT at 778-782-8543, or Visit ACT’s Web site at

ABOUT ACT and Report Authors

ACT is a Simon Fraser University-based research program designed to address the fact that Canadians face major impacts of climate change such as violent storms, sea-level rise, water scarcity, energy challenges and health risks. A five-year series of six-month sessions on top-of-mind climate change issues, ACT brings leading experts from around the world together with industry, community and government decision-makers to explore the risks and generate recommendations for sustainable adaptation. Each session features multi-stakeholder conferences and public dialogues that raise awareness and study the problems posed as well as potential solutions. These events support a policy research and development process led by an expert working with a team of graduate researchers to develop policy options for sustainable adaptation to the impacts.

Gordon McBean, lead policy author for ACT’s second set of findings, has a long involvement in climate change studies as a scientist, professor and manager. A lead author for the first and second IPCC Assessments and a review editor for the fourth, Gordon is currently Professor of Geography and Political Science at The University of Western Ontario, Director of Policy Studies of the Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction and Chair of the international Science Committee for the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk of the International Council for Science, the International Social Sciences Council and UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. He is also Chair of the Board of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, President of START International, and member of several advisory groups on climate change adaptation. Former appointments include Chair, UN Agencies International Scientific Committee for the World Climate Research Programme (1988-94), Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanographic Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and Assistant Deputy Minister, Meteorological Service of Environment Canada responsible for climate, weather, water and ice science and services. Gordon is a Member of the Order of Canada, shares in the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in IPCC, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and was awarded the 1989 Patterson Medal for distinguished contributions to meteorology.

Dan Henstra, policy co-author for ACT’s second set of findings is Assistant Professor of public administration and local government in the Department of Political Science at the University of Windsor. His research interests include public policy and administration, federalism and multilevel governance. Dr. Henstra has significant experience in policy research and analysis and has participated in projects funded by government departments such as Infrastructure Canada and Natural Resources Canada. His research on public policy, particularly in the field of emergency management, has been published in academic journals such as Canadian Public Administration, Canadian Public Policy and Public Administration Review.

Gregory Kopp: G.A. Kopp is a Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Western Ontario. He currently holds a Canada Research Chair in Wind Engineering and is a Director of the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory. He has been responsible for the wind risk mitigation and adaptation research for the ‘Three Little Pigs’ Project at the Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes where he works on all aspects of wind effects to residential construction.