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(Canada in a Changing Climate)
Impacts of recent extreme weather events highlight the vulnerability of Canadian communities and critical infrastructure to climate change.
The economic costs resulting from extreme weather events in Canada in the past decade (since 1996) have been greater than for all previous years combined. Costs reaching hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars are associated with flooding, wind, hail and ice storms, hurricanes, tornados and wild fires in all regions of southern Canada (Table SR-3), arising from property damage and disruption in the production and flow of goods and services. Prolonged periods of unusual weather, such as drought, can also result in high economic costs. Six of the ten most costly disasters in Canadian history have been droughts (Public Safety Canada, 2005). The national-scale drought of 2001–2002 resulted in Canada's gross domestic product being reduced by about $5.8 billion, as well as more than 41 000 job losses. While it is not possible to attribute individual weather events to changing climate, such costs illustrate that Canadian communities and infrastructure are vulnerable to climate events. This vulnerability is likely to increase, since climate models project increases in the frequency and magnitude of many types of extreme weather.
Extreme weather events affect the health and well-being of Canadians, as they frequently involve job losses, loss of assets, displacements, physical injuries and illnesses, psychological disorders, and loss of lives. The 1998 ice storm resulted in 945 injuries, while wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta resulted in an estimated 45,000 displacements in 2003, both of which are records for natural disasters in Canada (Table SR-3). Heavy rainfall following a period of drought was a contributing factor to the E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario in 2000, which resulted in seven deaths and thousands of people becoming ill.
Table SR-3: Recent costly extreme weather events, excluding drought (from Public Safety Canada, 2005; Environment Canada, 2005; BC Provincial Government, 2003).
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