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Climate Changed: Fiona demonstrated wild hurricane future, and need to adapt

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HALIFAX — As she stood near the remnants of flattened homes in Port aux Basques, N.L., Denise Anderson said the thought of continuing to live next to the ocean is hard after a deadly storm foreshadowed the violence of weather to come.

“I grew up in this area, I wanted to come back to this area, but now I’m not so sure I want to,” she said two days after post-tropical storm Fiona damaged the home where she has lived for three years, destroyed her neighbours’ houses and swept one local woman out to sea.

Across the East Coast, similar emotions about the way climate change is altering life can be heard, as residents rebuild their homes and cope with weeks without power, and political leaders are asked how they’ll prepare the coastlines and power grids to meet the next gale.

About 200 kilometres to the south across the Cabot Strait, in Reserve Mines, N.S., Reggie Boutilier pointed out a missing portion of his roof and wondered when the next storm would come. “It’s only early in the hurricane season, and I’m thinking we’re off to a bad start,” he said the day after Fiona hit.

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The scientific predictions on what’s to come aren’t reassuring.

Canada’s Changing Climate, a federal summary of climate science released in 2019, said fossil fuel emissions are likely increasing the intensity of tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic and head north to the Canadian coast

Blair Greenan, a federal scientist at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography who worked on the report, said in an interview that water temperatures off the Maritimes have gone up 1.5 C over the past century, adding a potent source of increased energy for the storms.

Anya Waite, a professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University, said the “sobering” reality is the warmer water shoots heat and moisture into storms like Fiona, giving them a longer duration and, often, a wider path.

While utility spokespeople referred to Fiona as “historic” in their news releases, Waite — also the science director of the Ocean Frontier Institute — says storms of this magnitude will become increasingly common. “We will be getting storms that have a lot more longevity because of the surface water being so much warmer,” she said.

A “perfect trifecta” of conditions — general sea-level rise over the past century created by melting glaciers, storm surges and lower barometric pressures during storms — is also increasing the likelihood of coasts being swamped during hurricanes, she added.

“In terms of adaptation … one of the main things is we will just have to move away from the coast,” she said. “We love the coast so much that people are clinging to their last rock as it goes under. We can’t do that.”

Peter Bevan-Baker, the leader of the Prince Edward Island Green Party, saw an altered landscape as he drove around the Island last Friday, with thousands of trees down, farmers’ barns destroyed and beaches that define the Island suddenly washed away. “The Island is changed forever,” he said in an interview.

Meanwhile, thousands of people remained without power nearly two weeks after the storm hit, and complaints rose about the lack of basics such as heat, electricity, gasoline and even food for seniors in provincially operated buildings.

Yet, during briefings last week, the privately owned utilities Nova Scotia Power and Maritime Electric, which serves P.E.I., dismissed the suggestion that power lines should be buried, saying underground lines would cost up to 10 times more without eliminating the risk of outages.

Bevan-Baker said these kinds of “standard” answers don’t recognize the changing climate realities. “I understand burying lines is an enormously expensive proposition, but so is rebuilding if it’s a storm like this every few years,” he said.

Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, said that while further studies on how utilities should adapt may be useful, the time for action arrived with the 170 kilometre-per-hour gusts that buffeted the region.

Endless scenario planning can become “a substitute for action,” he said in an interview.

He said where housing or infrastructure was destroyed close to the shore, the rebuild needs to occur further inland. More crucially, modelling is needed on potential coastal damage throughout the Atlantic region, in order to set rules on building that take climate adaptation into account.

Solutions will vary. In some instances, higher seawalls will protect towns; in others, development may have to retreat, while tidal flats and marshes are created to absorb some of the sea’s fury, Feltmate said.

Bevan-Baker points out that in P.E.I., there are close to 30,000 undeveloped lots near the coast, and yet there’s still no provincewide land-use plan taking into account future storm surges.

Joanna Eyquem, a geoscientist who also works with the University of Waterloo climate adaptation centre, said the providers of key infrastructure — whether utilities, railways or ports — “really need to step up to the adaptation challenge” and consider climate change in all they’re doing, something that is still not universal in Canada.

By contrast, in the United Kingdom, most similar organizations and companies report climate adaptation progress every five years, in addition to making mandatory climate-related financial disclosures annually, she said.

Feltmate said ordinary citizens have to act as well. His studies show many homeowners in flood-prone areas still don’t have generators to run sump pumps if the power goes out and haven’t graded their land to slope rainfall away from the buildings.

While some of the adaptation is costly, Feltmate points to research indicating that for each dollar spent — whether in cutting trees around power lines or creating power grids that are more decentralized — there are savings of five to six dollars in averted damage.

After prior severe storms, such as Juan in 2003 and Dorian in 2019, similar messages were delivered, and governments in the region briefly seemed attentive to the changing realities. But during election campaigns that followed, climate adaptation policies were only sketched out broadly and the focus shifted back to ailing health systems.

Will this time be different, after roofs are replaced, harbours rebuilt and freezers restocked? There are signs that even if officials are slow to change course, the urgency is sinking in at ground level.

In Burnt Islands, N.L., fisherman Murray Hardy gestured around his basement after shovelling out the mud deposited by Fiona’s tidal surge, saying he’ll prepare for the next hurricane by emptying out the space and replacing gyprock before mould sets in.

“What am I going to do? You got your home,” he said, when asked if moving was an option. “I expect more of this. All they talk about is global warming and the tides and such. I’ll just clean all this out.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 6, 2022.

— With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Port aux Basques and Burnt Islands, N.L.

 

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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Canada's top five federal contaminated sites to cost taxpayers billions to clean up – CTV News

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YELLOWKNIFE –

With a cost estimate of $4.38 billion, remediation of the Giant Mine, one of the most contaminated sites in Canada, is also expected to be the most expensive federal environmental cleanup in the country’s history.

The figure, recently approved by the Treasury Board of Canada, spans costs from 2005 until 2038, when active remediation at the former Yellowknife gold mine is anticipated to end. That includes $710 million the federal government said has already been spent, but does not include costs forlong-term care and maintenance.

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“It doesn’t bother me so much that it’s going to cost $4 billion to clean up Giant Mine. What really bothers me is that the taxpayer is covering that cost,” said David Livingstone, chair of the Giant Mine Oversight Board.

It indicates the federal government failed to ensure private developers provided financial security to remediate sites. He said while that has improved over time, there will likely be more issues in the future.

“We as a society need to get a better handle on what it costs us to support mining industry and oil and gas industry,” he said. “If the numbers suggest that it’s going to cost more to clean up a site than that site generated in revenue to the Crown, we’ve got a problem.”

There are more than 20,000 locations listed in the federal contaminated sites inventory, from dumps and abandoned mines to military operations on federal land.

Environment and Climate Change Canada says that after Giant Mine, the four most expensive cleanups are the Faro Mine in Yukon, the Port Hope Area Initiative in Ontario, Esquimalt Harbour in British Columbia and Yukon’s United Keno Hill Mine.

More than $2 billion has been spent on the five sites so far, and it’s anticipated they will cost taxpayers billions more in the coming years. Their final price tags are not yet known.

The most recent numbers from the Treasury Board of Canada indicate more than $707 million has been spent on remediation, care and maintenance at Faro Mine, a former open pit lead-zinc mine.Its remediation project is expected to take 15 years to complete and is currently estimated to cost $1 billion, plus $166 million for the first 10 years of long-term operation and maintenance.

Parsons Inc. was awarded a $108-million contract in February for construction, care and maintenance at Faro Mine until March 2026, with the option to extend the contract for the duration of active remediation. The company said the contract could ultimately span 20 years and exceed $2 billion.

In 2012, Ottawa committed $1.28 billion in funding over 10 years for the cleanup of historical low-level radioactive waste in the municipalities of Port Hope and Port Grandby, Ont. To date more than $722 million has been spent on assessment and remediation.

The Port Grandby Project was completed earlier this year and has moved into long-term monitoring for hundreds of years. The Port Hope cleanup, which started in 2018, will continue into 2030.

The cleanup in the Esquimalt Harbour seabed in Victoria currently has a budget of $162.5 million. Roughly $214 million has already been spent on remediation and assessment. The Department of National Defence said that may include costs before 2015, when the remediation project began.

Cleanup of United Keno Hill Mine, a historical silver, lead and zinc mining property near Yukon’s Keno City, is estimated to cost $125 million, including $79 million during its active reclamation phase. That is expected to begin in 2023 and take five years, followed by a two-year transition phase then long-term monitoring and maintenance. More than $67 million has been spent on remediation, care and maintenance at the site so far.

Other costly federal sites that have been cleaned up include the Cape Dyer Dew-Line, 21 former radar stations across the Arctic, for $575 million, the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens on Cape Breton Island, N.S., for nearly $398 million, and the 5 Wing Goose Bay air force base in Labrador, for $142.9 million.

The 2022 public accounts state the gross liability for the 2,524 federal contaminated sites where action is required is nearly $10 billion based on site assessments. Of the 3,079 unassessed sites, 1,330 are projected to proceed to remediation with an estimated liability of $256 million.

The federal contaminated sites action plan was established in 2005 with $4.54 billion in funding over 15 years. That was renewed for an additional 15 years, from 2020 to 2034, with a commitment of $1.16 billion for the first five years.

Jamie Kneen with MiningWatch Canada said the contamination from Giant Mine highlights the importance of the planning and assessment process for development projects.

“If you don’t actually do any planning around something, you can end up with a pretty horrible mess,” he said. “In this case, it killed people before they started even capturing the arsenic. We don’t want that to happen anymore.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2022.

——

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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Trudeau government unveils long-awaited plan to confront an 'increasingly disruptive' China – CBC News

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Canada’s long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy describes China as “an increasingly disruptive global power” on the world stage — a social and economic force that’s too big to ignore but is also increasingly focused on bending international rules to suit its own interests.

Using some surprisingly blunt language, the strategy says the Canadian government needs to be “clear-eyed” about China’s objectives in the Far East and elsewhere. It promises to spend almost half a billion dollars over five years on improving military and intelligence co-operation with allies in the region.

“China’s rise, enabled by the same international rules and norms that it now increasingly disregards, has had an enormous impact on the Indo-Pacific, and it has ambitions to become the leading power in the region,” says the 26-page document, which was provided to the media in advance of its formal release in Vancouver on Sunday.

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“China is making large-scale investments to establish its economic influence, diplomatic impact, offensive military capabilities and advanced technologies. China is looking to shape the international order into a more permissive environment for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours.”

The strategy document also says that “China’s sheer size and influence makes co-operation necessary to address some of the world’s existential pressures, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, global health and nuclear proliferation.”

In that respect, Canada’s foreign policy blueprint mirrors the approaches taken by its closest allies, including the United States, which last February released its own vision for engagement in the region.

WATCH | Foreign affairs minister discusses new Indo-Pacific strategy: 

‘Ambitious’ Indo-Pacific plan aims to increase diplomatic and military presence, foreign affairs minister says

11 hours ago

Duration 9:05

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly speaks with Rosemary Barton Live about the federal government’s plan for the Indo-Pacific region. She says the plan, which is set for a decade, aims to increase Canada’s diplomatic and military presence.

Where the American and Canadian strategies differ is in how Canada’s document spells out that it will “at all times unapologetically defend our national interest” and that its views will be “shaped by a realistic and clear-eyed assessment of today’s China.”

Many observers — including some prominent Liberals — have urged the government over the past few years to maintain the pro-business and investment relationship with Beijing that has built up over the last two decades.

The new strategy document, however, appears to reflect the lessons of the bruising international clashes that have driven relations between Canada and China into the deep freeze: the arrest and extradition fight involving Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou; China’s retaliatory detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig; and even the lecture Chinese President Xi Jinping recently delivered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — an event caught on camera.

“In areas of profound disagreement, we will challenge China, including when it engages in coercive behaviour — economic or otherwise — ignores human rights obligations or undermines our national security interests and those of partners in the region,” the strategy document says.

In an interview airing Sunday on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly described the overall plan as “pragmatic” and principled.

“Our approach is clear, you know, and we have a clear framework which is essentially about protecting our national interests without compromising our values and principles,” Joly said.

“So what I’ve said many times at this point is we will challenge when we ought to and we will co-operate when we must.”

Foreign investment, foreign interference

Overall, the strategy envisions about $2 billion in investments to, among other things, strengthen Canadian “infrastructure, democracy and Canadian citizens against foreign interference.”

It proposes changes to the Investment Canada Act to prevent state-owned enterprises and other foreign entities that threaten Canada’s national security from taking over critical Canadian industries and intellectual property. All federal departments are being told to review Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with China and other countries to ensure Canada’s national interests are being protected.

The strategy upholds Canada’s One-China policy when it comes to Taiwan. The island — a democracy — faces increasing threats from Beijing, which has not ruled out the use of military force in its drive to unify Taiwan with the mainland.

“Canada will oppose unilateral actions that threaten the status quo in the Taiwan Strait,” the strategy says. On Sunday, Defence Minister Anita Anand skirted questions about Canada’s willingness to defend Taiwan, as well as whether the government was concerned about a backlash from China due to Canada’s increased presence.

“We will ensure that the region remains one that is stable and will continue to grow economically,” she said.

The Ground Force of the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army conducts a long-range live-fire drill into the Taiwan Strait, from an undisclosed location in this photo provided by the army on August 4, 2022.
The Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army conducts a long-range live-fire drill into the Taiwan Strait from an undisclosed location, in this handout photo released on Aug. 4. (People’s Liberation Army handout/Reuters)

Also on Sunday, Joly drew a direct line between Canada’s involvement in the Pacific and another major focus of its foreign policy: the Arctic. She said closer ties with South Korea and Japan would support Canada’s goal of maintaining sovereignty in the region, in light of increased interest from countries like China.

“More Canadian men and women will be in the region to ensure peace and also uphold the rule of law,” she said.

The strategy document has been years in the making and was eagerly anticipated by Canada’s allies in the region, including Japan and South Korea, which have been lobbying for deeper co-operation. It also contains a section on India, which includes a commitment to work toward a new trade agreement.

The Liberal government promised when first elected in 2015 to develop a new approach to China after years of prickly relations under the former Conservative administration.

But Canada has struggled to figure out how to engage with an increasingly assertive — sometimes belligerent — China and its supreme leader Xi, who has openly rejected elements of Western-style governance, such as the separation of powers.

The Liberals signalled a plan to increase Canada’s military commitment to the region during the prime minister’s recent overseas trip to the G20 Summit.

HMCS Winnipeg, HNLMS Evertsen and RFA Tidespring are shown in formation on Sept. 9, 2021, during Exercise Pacific Crown. In the course of the exercise, Canada and the United States each sent a warship through the Taiwan Strait. (UK MOD Crown)

That commitment is outlined in broad strokes in the strategy document through promises to boost engagement in international military exercises and to increase the number of Canadian warships deployed in the region.

There’s also a pledge to help smaller countries in the region build up their security forces, presumably with the help of Canadian training. That pledge is similar to the promise the Liberal government made in 2017 to help increase the training and quality of United Nations peacekeepers — a promise that has gone unfulfilled.

The strategy says the military commitments being made are tied to the ongoing review of Canada’s defence policy, ordered in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. That review has yet to be made public.

The defence and security promises in the Indo-Pacific Strategy are being made at a time when the Canadian military is short 10,000 members and is struggling to recruit new ones.

Joly said the government will make the strategy work and will be “putting money where our mouth is.”

Earlier this month, China’s embassy in Canada responded to a speech made by Joly that previewed the new strategy, saying it “contained a lot of negative contents related to China that distorted the truth, exaggerated the so-called ‘China threat’ and discredited China’s image, which constituted a gross interference in China’s internal affairs. China is deeply concerned about this and firmly opposes it.”

The strategy was welcomed by the U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Cohen, in a statement Sunday.

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Canadian military would be ‘challenged’ to launch a large scale operation: chief of the defence staff

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OTTAWA –

Canada’s military forces are “ready” to meet their commitments should Russia’s war in Ukraine spread to NATO countries, but it would be a “challenge” to launch a larger scale operation in the long term, with ongoing personnel and equipment shortages, according to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre.

Eyre told Joyce Napier on CTV’s Question Period in an interview airing Sunday that while the forces in Europe are “ready for the tactical mission they’ve been assigned,” he has larger concerns about strategic readiness. He said there’s a lack of people and equipment, and further concern around the ability to sustain a larger scale mission in the longer term.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are still struggling to retain staff, with nearly 10,000 fewer trained personnel than they’d need to be at full force, and equipment stocks below what they require.

“We’ve got challenges in all of those,” Eyre said, adding the numbers reflect what’s been “let slip over decades, as we’ve focused on the more immediate (needs).”

Eyre said Canada’s military would be “hard pressed” to launch another large-scale operation like it had in Afghanistan, as an example, without having to redistribute its resources around the globe, as threats evolve.

“The military that we have now is going to be increasingly called upon to support Canada and to support Canadian interests, to support our allies overseas, but as well at home,” Eyre said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change impacting the landscape in the Arctic, and an increase in digital and cybersecurity threats.

“It’s always a case of prioritization and balancing our deployments around the globe, not just with what, but when, and with who … and getting that balance right is something that that we’re working on,” he said. “Could we use more? Yeah, absolutely. But we operate with what we have.”

“We prioritize and balance based on what our allies need, and what the demand signals, just to make sure that we achieve the strategic effect the government wants us to achieve,” he also said.

Meanwhile Defence Minister Anita Anand said on CTV’s Question Period last week that Canada should “be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” and balance its NATO commitments with securing the Arctic and promoting peace in the Indo-Pacific.

Eyre said his number one priority is getting Canada’s armed forces up to full strength, with an attrition rate of 9.3 per cent between both regular and reserve forces, up from 6.9 per cent last year. The Canadian Armed Forces Retention Strategy was released just last month.

“We are facing the same challenge that every other industry out there is facing in terms of a really tight labor market,” Eyre said. “Every other military in the West is facing the same challenge.”

He explained the organization is working on streamlining its recruitment process, among other changes, to meet the increasing need, with the goal to get numbers up “as quickly as possible.”

“Ideally, would have been yesterday,” he said. “We’re looking at where we can accelerate the recruiting, the training, and optimizing our training pipeline.”

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