‘Couldn’t have imagined it six months ago,’ says Horgan, but scientists have been issuing climate warnings for decades
Premier John Horgan and deputy premier Mike Farnworth this week said the high winds and torrential rains that caused catastrophic flooding, landslides, displaced 17,000 people and caused at least one death so far were unprecedented and an event not previously contemplated.
“Even the experts were just completely surprised by it,” said Horgan. “I think all British Columbians fully understand that now we have to better prepare for events like this. But we couldn’t have even imagined it six months ago.”
But scientists have been warning for more than 30 years that climate change poses a threat to B.C. — rising sea levels and more droughts, flooding and landslides.
There have been numerous reports and studies in the past decades warning of the effects of climate change, including a 2018 B.C. auditor general report that concluded the provincial government was not adequately managing the risks posed by climate change, and that key climate-driven risk areas, such as flooding and wildfires, required additional attention.
The audit found the government had not comprehensively assessed the risks posed by climate change and didn’t have a plan to move forward.
The report highlighted that increased fall and winter precipitation — in the form of high-intensity, short-duration rainfall events, also called atmospheric rivers — is expected to increase flooding in coast mountain rivers and streams and may result in more frequent landslides that generate debris flows and floods.
A 2019 preliminary climate risk assessment commissioned by the province also cites atmospheric rivers as a risk.