Are you ready for the next storm? Probably not

Most Canadians are not prepared for extreme weather.

From the person on the street to the climate change scientist, most of us – 75% of Canadians according to a recent poll – acknowledge that climate change has precipitated increasingly frequent severe weather events.  Even so, less than 10% of those are taking precautionary measures against the extreme flooding and storms we’ve been witnessing lately.

This public nonchalance was revealed in RBC’s Annual Water Attitude Study which polled just over 2,000 Canadians earlier this year, and comes on the heels of some of the most extreme weather we’ve had in years – floods in Calgary, Toronto and throughout Europe, along with droughts in California, Australia, and many other countries.

The Canadian insurance industry has pegged the cost of three severe weather events in 2013 – floods in Calgary and Toronto in addition to the ice storm in southern Ontario – at more than $3 billion in damages.  The big reinsurance companies (which issue insurance to insurance companies) started paying attention to climate change decades ago; they sponsored studies and sounded polite warnings of future risk.  “There are more and more storms happening, and we’re seeing extreme weather events that used to happen once every 40 years… that can now be expected to happen once every six years,” said Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

One would think that the latest storms and floods of biblical proportions would be potent motivation for action to reduce climate change pollution and minimize its impacts. But this latest poll seems to indicate that, for most Canadians, it’s just business as usual.  Despite the ho-hum attitude, individuals, businesses and governments will be paying the bill just the same.  Just wait until you open the next bill from your insurance company: premiums have already been raised by 15% to 20%, deductibles have doubled and “peril-based pricing” has been introduced as insurers foresee ongoing increases in climate change/weather-related claims.

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