Climate change is causing the number and severity of extreme weather events in Canada to increase, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). As the climate gets warmer, there are more floods, severe thunderstorms and hailstorms.
Canada’s changing climate is creating effects that are being felt across the country. Residents of Ontario will remember the unseasonably mild winter of 2011. Farmers in Alberta have battled floods during the past two years, while droughts have helped wildfires to spread quickly in northern regions.
The IBC reports that the national average temperature in Canada for 2010 was 3°C above normal, which makes it the warmest year on record since the weather records began in 1948. Along with the warmer temperatures has been an increase in precipitation. According to Environment Canada, the average precipitation increased by about 12% during the past 50 years.
In the Government of Canada’s report, From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate 2007, they report that climate change is likely responsible, at least in part, for the rising frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Warmer temperatures tend to produce more violent weather patterns, including floods, storms and droughts. As a result, weather events that used to happen once every 40 years are now happening once every six years reports Environment Canada.
As climate change brings more frequent and severe weather, Canadians are submitting larger claims to their insurance companies than ever before. According to the IBC, 88,250 claims in 2010 rose to an estimated $815 million. The numbers rose to 99,550 claims costing $1.58 billion in 2011.
Insurance industry support
As a whole, the insurance industry is taking steps to respond to climate change in Canada. Insurance companies invest over $3 million per year into a hail suppression program in Alberta. By seeding potential storm clouds, the program has helped to decrease the severity of hailstorms throughout the province.
Insurance companies also work with the IBC to develop diagnostic tools for municipalities. These tools help community leaders assess their vulnerability to climate change and prioritize their investments to best meet their needs.
Climate change is happening on a global scale, but as Canadians, we are known for our ability to handle extreme weather.