Canada faces important choices to confront mounting disaster risks in a changing climate: New report

January 13, 2022 – Ottawa, ON
 
As the human and economic costs of climate disasters continue to mount, Canada faces a 
choice. It can continue to respond to disasters as they unfold — with the attendant economic, 
social, and health harms — or it can proactively prepare for them, mitigating the worst of the 
damages or avoiding them altogether. According to a new expert panel report from the Council 
of Canadian Academies (CCA), bridging disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation 
practices is crucial to reducing exposure and vulnerability to disasters and bolstering public 
safety in a changing climate.
 
Canada is susceptible to a wide range of severe weather events, from extremes of hot and cold,
to tornadoes, floods, droughts, avalanches, landslides, winter storms, ice storms, and wildfires. 
In a changing climate, these events are becoming more common and severe, and they are 
increasingly likely to strike at the same time and place, exacerbating and compounding the 
hazardous consequences.
 
“The tragic and damaging impacts of cascading hazards are becoming increasingly apparent, 
as we saw in BC, where record-breaking rainfall triggered landslides in areas where vegetation 
had been destroyed by wildfires just months earlier,” said Scott Vaughan, Chair of the Expert 
Panel. “But outcomes like this are not inevitable ― they are the result of choices that put people 
in harm’s way. There are practical measures that can be implemented to help mitigate the most 
damaging effects of extreme weather events.”
 
The cost of preventing and preparing for disasters is several times less than responding to and 
recovering from them. However, most governments persistently underinvest in risk reduction 
and later pay the price in terms of disaster response and recovery. 
 
According to the Expert Panel, decision makers need prompt access to better data on extreme 
weather events to understand and reduce risks. Funding, investment, and insurance programs 
and policies can also be adapted to build resilience. For example, actions could include 
dissuading homeowners from building or rebuilding on floodplains, lowering insurance 
premiums for households with backwater flood valves, and improving building codes and 
engineering practices to climate-proof buildings and infrastructure. Recognizing the value of 
Indigenous and Local Knowledge and actively engaging with Indigenous knowledge holders is 
also critical in the effective reduction of risk.
 
“Building disaster resilience hinges on a coordinated strategic approach involving government, 
businesses, and the public,” said Eric M. Meslin, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS, President and CEO of 
the CCA. “This report describes the tools and resources critical to supporting integrated 
responses, which can be more impactful, stretching limited resources further.” 
Public Safety Canada asked the CCA to examine key opportunities to improve disaster 
resilience in Canada through better integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change 
adaptation research and practice. 
 
Building a Resilient Canada identifies choices that households, communities, businesses, and 
governments can make to reduce the impacts of extreme weather on Canada’s people, 
communities, and economy in a changing climate. The report details the resources, funding 
programs, investment options, insurance offerings, and governance structures that can support
effective decision-making and a more resilient Canada.
 
Visit www.cca-reports.ca to download the report. 
 
Contact: 
Heather Ennis
Director of Communications, Council of Canadian Academies
613-851-7723
 
About the Council of Canadian Academies 
The CCA is a not-for-profit organization that undertakes independent, evidence-based expert 
panel assessments to inform public policy development in Canada. The CCA was founded by 
three independent organizations that represent some of the finest minds in Canada ― the Royal 
Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Canadian Academy of 
Health Sciences. Their Fellows and senior decision-makers sit on CCA's Board of Directors and 
Scientific Advisory Committee, and they are a key source of membership for expert panels. The 
CCA's founding Academies also provide key guidance and input throughout the assessment 
process, including expert panel nominations and dissemination processes. For more information 
about the CCA or its assessments, please visit www.cca-reports.ca
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