Go­ing to ex­tremes

The Amherst News - - OPINION -

As the New Eng­land gover­nors and the Eastern Cana­dian pre­miers sat down in Char­lot­te­town Mon­day morn­ing, you can imag­ine that they had a few words about hur­ri­cane Har­vey, and the de­struc­tion lit­er­ally rain­ing down on Hous­ton.

You can’t be the head of a gov­ern­ment in a state or a province with­out hav­ing a clear un­der­stand­ing that, at any time, you might be fac­ing a calamity as se­ri­ous as the one un­fold­ing in Texas right now.

It might not be as large and dra­matic, but the risk is al­ways there that your ac­tion, or more pre­cisely, your in­ac­tion, might cost some­one their life. It could be as sim­ple as last win­ter’s ice storm in New Brunswick, or New­found­land and Labrador’s 2014 “Dark NL,” when the power grid col­lapsed on the is­land part of the province.

It must al­ways be in the back of your mind: the need to pre­pare for the worst.

Ear­lier this month, a group of U.S. sci­en­tists re­leased the draft re­port of the Fourth Na­tional Climate As­sess­ment — it’s been sug­gested that the re­port was re­leased in draft form to en­sure that it wouldn’t be al­tered for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

What it points out is that gov­ern­ments have to be pre­pared not only to face ex­treme weather events, but to ex­pect them more fre­quently, and to ex­pect them to be more se­vere.

“Ex­treme pre­cip­i­ta­tion events will very likely con­tinue to in­crease in fre­quency and in­ten­sity through­out most of the world,” the re­port said. “For At­lantic and eastern North Pa­cific hur­ri­canes and western North Pa­cific typhoons, in­creases are pro­jected in pre­cip­i­ta­tion rates and in­ten­sity. The fre­quency of the most in­tense of th­ese storms is pro­jected to in­crease in the At­lantic…” (That sounds strangely prophetic, given this week­end’s events in Hous­ton, but bear in mind, Hous­ton is one storm, and the re­port is re­fer­ring to the long-term di­rec­tion our climate is tak­ing.)

The re­port has other con­cerns as well: snow­pack melt in the west, in­creased in­ci­dence of large for­est fires in the west and north­ern U.S. It also points out that At­lantic and Gulf Coast cities have seen an in­crease in mi­nor nui­sance flood­ing — not ma­jor floods, but still with con­sid­er­able lo­cal­ized dam­age — by five to 10 times over what they saw just a few decades ago. “Ti­dal flood­ing will con­tinue in­creas­ing the depth, fre­quency and ex­tent this cen­tury,” the re­port says.

Per­haps the gover­nors and pre­miers talked about that, too, about the fact that in­fra­struc­ture that used to be suf­fi­cient for rain­fall and coastal flood­ing isn’t up to the task any­more, and that more and more dol­lars have to be di­rected to­wards im­prov­ing and in­creas­ing mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures.

Or maybe, like they had orig­i­nally said they would, they talked cross-bor­der trade.

Long term-in­fra­struc­ture plan­ning in a chang­ing world isn’t sexy.

It doesn’t earn you in­stant votes.

It does save lives.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.