Editorial: Storm Ottawa Highlights Need for Climate Change Adaptation

While action is essential at the macro level, acts of kindness and neighborliness show how the city works together in the face of adversity

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Then let’s check it out. There was that huge ice storm in 1998 that people still talk about, that’s how great the devastation was. Then there were disastrous floods in 2017 and 2019, forcing people in two provinces up and down the Ottawa River — the latest incident even earned it the status of Canada’s best weather story of the year. Reconstruction continues in some places after the 2018 tornadoes that brought catastrophic destruction to eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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And now, a “derecho” storm that, at the time of writing, has killed 10 people in Ontario and Quebec, and at its peak left more than 170,000 customers without electricity in Ottawa alone. Beautiful older trees, as well as young saplings, were flattened by gusts of wind. Hydrotowers were twisted into grotesque shapes, and street lamp stands that should have withstood the pressure snapped like toothpicks. There was little warning that it would come on a day expected to bring only sporadic thunderstorms.

Suffice it to say there are lessons to be learned.

As John Stone, a member of the Bureau of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, argues in this week’s Citizen, the past time has come when governments took the issue of climate change adaptation seriously and developed innovative technologies and policies to help us deal with climate change. our changing climate. We must, he says, “build our resilience to unavoidable periods of extreme weather and its existential impact on human civilization and life on this planet.” And he points out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a very practical report on how to tackle this.

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So yes, action is essential at the macro level. Still, here on the ground, where hydroplows scramble, paramedics do health checks on vulnerable people without electricity, major streets remain closed due to downed power lines and massive tree branches on many residential streets, there’s reason to take heart.

Why? As usual in a generous city, neighbors help neighbors, whether it be for shelter, help with cleaning up, or a chance to charge a cell phone or take a shower. Responsible people have shown how to use social media in a positive way to quickly share important information. And – much to Ottawa’s credit – police said they saw no increase in crime during the height of Saturday’s blackout. In the face of adversity, this city pulls together.

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In the coming days, let’s be kind to each other as we urge our leaders to take the broader, longer-term climate change action that Canada so clearly needs.

Links to more coverage of the weekend’s storm:

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