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Climate Change Hits South Saskatchewan

State Of Emergency In Estevan As Floodwaters Rise

by Daniel Johnson

Photo: waferboard
Photo: waferboard

Major media in Saskatchewan have been covering the flooding in the city of Estevan in southern Saskatchewan now that a state of emergency has been declared. Estevan received 130 millimetres of rain on Sunday, July 10, and more rain is expected Monday, according to Environment Canada

The city of Estevan has a fully staffed, well maintained drainage system. Even so, city crews were up 'half the night,' according to the Mayor of Estevan, Roy Ludwig, cleaning out storm drains but unable to keep up with the flooding. 

Smaller nearbby towns, including Loydminster, Humboldt and Yorkton have also been hit by heavy floods. 

But, given Saskatchewan's better drainage systems and other disaster preparedness programs, it seems likely the flooding will be cleared up, pumped out and, southern Saskatchewan will be back to normal, for the most part, within a few weeks. There have been no deaths from the flood so far from the flooding there. 

The flooding seen in Saskatchewan is part of an increasing global trend, one that can be devestating. Floods and other severe weather disasters are on the rise, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in a November 2015 report. 

"In total, an average of 335 weather-related disasters were recorded per year between 2005 and 2014," a briefing of the UNISDR report reads, "an increase of 14 per cent from 1995-2004, and almost twice the level recorded during 1985-1995."

"The analysis also highlights that floods accounted for 47 percent of all weather-related disasters from 1995-2015 affecting 2.3 billion people and killing 157,000".  

"Storms were the deadliest type of weather-related disaster, accounting for 242,000 deaths or 40 percent of the global weather-related deaths, with 89 per cent of these deaths occurring in lower-income countries."

But the problem with climate change is all about extremes, the dry as well as the wet. Fires in the north are well known, but people in Canada should feel very lucky we are far enough north to avoid the droughts and heatwaves for now. 

According to the report, "Overall, heatwaves accounted for 148,000 of the 164,000 lives lost due to extreme temperatures, with 92 per cent of deaths occurring in high-income countries.

Finally, drought reportedly affects Africa more than any other continent, with EM-DAT recoding 136 events there between 1995 and 2015, including 77 droughts in East Africa alone. The report also recommends that there needs to be improved data collection on indirect deaths from drought."

All of this is preventable, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).  "Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir, the head of CRED, said climate change, climate variability and weather events are a threat to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’ overall target of eliminating poverty.

“We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle other risk drivers such as unplanned urban development, environmental degradation and gaps in early warnings,” she said. “This all requires ensuring people are risk informed and strengthening institutions which manage disaster risk.”

 


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