When The Meteorologists Are Worried, We Should Be Alarmed

In 2019, the Canadian government and several hundred municipalities declared a “climate emergency” to recognize that the climate crisis is real.

This gave these levels of government the power to prepare for such emergency, and to act without delay when such emergency would occur, which already was happening to some. Since then, progress has reverted back to as slowly as before the declaration. To get an idea of how the climate emergency is escalating, it’s worthwhile to look at the Canada's yearly top 10 weather events.

Since 2017, shortly after Justin Trudeau came to power, Environment and Natural Resources Canada (ENRC) was renamed Environment and Climate Change. (ECCC) in recognition of climate change. The ECCC continued providing the yearly list of Canada's "Top Ten Weather Events" that the ENRC had started in 1996, and the list is up-to-date to 2022.

The information provided by the government of Canada's website over the last 26 years in reporting the "Top Ten Weather Events" (TWEE) is worth further study, but what is readily apparent is how the reporting has changed over the years.

At the beginning, the TTWE was a staid government curiosity page listing the rare acts of God in Canada. By the early 2000s, the ENRC started providing links to the news stories related to the events as they gained more media prominence. Then, the number of pages covering the TTWE started to increase. By the way, a regular in the TTWE over the years is Alberta, home of the tar sands.  The correlation cannot be ignored.

Another observation is that over the years the tone for this annual report has changed from bland to concern, to alarm, to acceptance, and to pulling off the gloves in the hopes that this will galvanize action, which is where we are now.

More recently, the annual TTWE report has added the cost of these severe weather events. Cost is always relatable to everybody, especially when it comes to property, so it's inclusion amplifies the looming threat of climate change.

Starting in 2020, The TTWE has been using the cost estimates compiled by Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ). Established in 2014, CatIQ is Canada's insured loss and exposure indices provider of detailed analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and human-made catastrophes for insurance/reinsurance industries, public sector, and other stakeholders.

Note that these quantified costs provided by CatIQ are for insured costs, so they do not include losses that are excluded from insurance policies, or losses that have no insurance coverage, in which case governments are expected to step in and cover the cost. Most often, it has been the federal government that has stepped in, including sending in the army. These uninsured costs have been substantial, unexpected, and not budgeted for. However, what the federal government can expect is that these costs are increasing.

In the 2020 TTWE introduction, the CatIQ costs were a few lines, but by 2022, costs has its own section at the beginning of the report to highlight its importance. There, it highlighted there were 13 major weather events, each with insured cost-losses of $30 million, and an interim aggregate loss approaching $3 billion. What will happen if the insurance industry no longer wants to cover these events, or declines customers insurance?

As the 2021 TTWE report stated, insured damages will only be a fraction of the total economic costs and together with business losses and infrastructure costs for repairing and rebuilding, 2021 will undoubtedly be the most expensive in history. Undoubtedly, these billions of dollars could be better spent mitigating the causes of climate change. At some point, hopefully sooner than later, the cost of not acting to prevent climate change will be too expensive to ignore.

To see where we are now, the 2022 TTWE report is disconcerting. There were three runner-up events in addition to the 59 regional events in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies, British Columbia, and The North. The region with the highest incidence was Alberta, again, with 13 events, followed by Quebec and Ontario with 11 events each.

In total, 2022 had 72 severe weather events. This is an increase of more than seven times over 26 years when the Top Ten Weather Events was started in 1996. In recent years, to make the Top Ten Weather Event, they’ve had to expand the selection criteria because the choice is overwhelming.

Yes, the climate emergency is here, and the meteorologists are very worried. We should be alarmed.  It's time to reduce energy consumption.

Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese


SMV Energy Solutions

SMV Energy Solutions provides simple smart solutions that conserve energy. 




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