Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for British Columbia: “Only after wading into the executive summary did one realize it was one of the more alarming documents commissioned by this or any other B.C. government,” wrote Vaughan Palmer, Vancouver Sun columnist (July 2019)
Note to Reader:
British Columbia is already experiencing the effects of global climate change: average temperatures are increasing, sea levels are rising, and variable and extreme weather is becoming more frequent. Scientists expect these changes to accelerate and intensify in the years ahead, creating risks to society, natural resources, and ecosystems.
The Government of British Columbia has completed a Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment to better understand climate-related risks in B.C. and help government develop appropriate measures to address those risks. The risk assessment is phase one of a project that was initiated in response to the 2018 BC Auditor General’s report, “Managing Climate Change Risk: An Independent Audit”.
Risk Framework Provides Multiple Consequence Categories
In mid-July 2019, the B.C. government released the “Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for British Columbia” – the first provincial-scale climate risk assessment in Canada.
This is the first phase of an initiative to better understand climate-related risks in B.C. and help government develop appropriate measures to address those risks. It will also support the development of the provincial climate preparedness strategy, committed to in the CleanBC plan and scheduled for release in 2020.
Using a provincial-scale risk assessment framework, the assessment evaluates the likelihood of 15 climate risk events for B.C. and the health, social, economic and environmental consequences resulting from them. As a high-level assessment, the results reflect risks for the province as a whole and do not represent the risks at other levels, such as for Indigenous communities, local governments, or a specific sector or region.
Severe wildfires and seasonal water shortages were given the two highest rankings. B.C. was also estimated to face significant risks of heat waves, ocean acidification, loss of glacier mass, longer-term water shortages, river flooding and coastal storm surges.
All but four of the 15 events were judged to have potentially “catastrophic” consequences in injury and loss of life and damage to property, the economy and provincial finances.
Interactions between Risk Events
Instead of happening independently, climate risk events often occur simultaneously and are strongly interlinked. These compound risk events can have linked probabilities driven by the same underlying conditions and can in some cases trigger each other. Furthermore, the consequences of back-to-back events could be significantly greater than those of any single event alone, due both to more significant impacts of subsequent events and greater sensitivities or lower adaptive capacity of systems still recovering from previous events.
As climate change increases the probability and severity of a range of climate risk events in British Columbia, it also increases the potential for interacting and compound events. For purposes of illustration, the report assesses one combination of events likely to occur in British Columbia: a seasonal or long-term water shortage followed by wildfire, which in turn primes the landscape for severe landslides following heavy precipitation. Further assessment and scenario planning should evaluate the robustness of emergency services and disaster planning to respond to multiple disasters simultaneously.
Additional assessment should also include consideration of other combinations of hazards, which have not been analyzed in detail.
To Learn More:
To read the column by Vaughan Palmer, click on Climate risk report flies under the radar despite alarming contents and download a PDF copy here.
After that, download a copy of Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment Overview.
Finally, download a copy of the entire 400-page Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for British Columbia.