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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
Just last week, we wrote about how the 2022 Winter Olympics is the first in history to depend entirely on machine-made snow.
But then on Sunday, Beijing awoke to snow covering the ground, the first time the Chinese capital has received a dusting since the beginning of this year’s Games. It was maybe just a little too much snow, the women’s freeksi slopestyle qualification, featuring Team China superstar Eileen Gu, had to be rescheduled because of the weather, as a blizzard warning was issued.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- In the search for less carbon-intensive fuels, Great Lakes freighters powered by soybean may be the answer
- Alex Bozikovic: At Montreal’s Biodome, a design competition brings architecture to life
- Innovative furniture designers harness discarded fabrics for a sustainable future for home goods
- Oil sands CEOs are working together in the race to get to net zero
- From The Narwhal: This Alberta coal mine is back from the brink of financial ruin — but it comes at a cost
A deeper dive
Looking at flood risk and real estate
Matt McClearn is a reporter for The Globe. For this week’s deeper dive, he examines what a new study reveals about how flooding affects Canadian real estate markets.
Consider this puzzle: A report by two Ontario conservation authorities observed that many properties along the shores of Lake Erie were exposed to serious erosion and flood damages. What’s more, new regulations greatly limited owners’ options for protecting them. Even so, the report noted, “residences in hazard areas continue to be sold through a competitive real estate market…New owners are sometimes fully unaware of potential hazards.”
For many Canadians, their home is their most valuable asset. What happens to your home’s value when your neighbourhood floods? According to insurance industry estimates, roughly 10 per cent of the nation’s dwellings are at high risk of flooding, the nation’s costliest form of natural disaster. Yet there’s little research available in Canada on how real estate markets respond to flood risks, leaving us to puzzle over anecdotes like the observations about Lake Erie shoreline properties.
This week, a report from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation will release a report which sheds some rare but welcome light. Its researchers studied five cities that suffered recent catastrophic floods: Grand Forks, B.C., Gatineau, Que. and three in Ontario: Burlington, Toronto and Ottawa.
The results: Neighbourhoods suffering flooding experienced an averaged 8.2 per cent reduction in home selling prices in the six months following the event, relative to homes in similar neighbourhoods nearby that didn’t suffer inundation. The number of homes listed for sale dropped by nearly half (44.3 per cent) and remained on the market for nearly 20 per cent longer relative to homes in control neighbourhoods.
Many questions remain. If you wish to sell a farm on B.C.’s Sumas Prairie, which flooded extensively in November, will the “flood discount” have dissipated two or five years from now once memories of the catastrophe have faded? If you’re considering purchasing an oceanfront property in Nova Scotia, how much less should you offer on account of its vulnerability to sea level rise? Alberta’s building the massive Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir — will that make properties along the Elbow River in Calgary more expensive?
Many Canadians have a lot riding on answers, but they won’t come easily. Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre, said its researchers couldn’t get the data they needed from major real estate bodies for their study: Iinstead they had to build relationships with individual realtors in those markets.
“This was one of the most difficult reports we ever wrote,” he said. “Analyzing the data was easy. Getting the data was hard.”
What else you missed
- As emergency supports for Lytton evaporate, B.C. starts to clear obstacles to reconstruction
- Explainer: Olympics show complexity of sustainability claims
- Across the world, oil and gas bankers confront their own energy transition
- U.S. SEC chief Gary Gensler says he’s working to firm up mandatory climate-risk proposal
- How to chase the aurora borealis
Opinion and analysis
Glen Hodgson: Where is the flood insurance coverage?
Chris Sankey: The road to reconciliation has been marred by eco-colonialism
Ian Urquhart: Jason Kenney’s enthusiasm for coal mining makes little sense on most levels
Tara McKenna: Forget the cynics – individual actions matter when it comes to the planet
Editorial board: The oil business is awash in a windfall of billions in cash. It’s time to invest big in cutting emissions
Canada Pension Plan steps into net-zero carbon emission pledge
Carbon emissions across Canada Pension Plan’s investment portfolio could climb in the initial stages of a net-zero plan that features a focus on seeking opportunities to decarbonize operations in high-emitting sectors, its chief executive officer said.
CPP, which manages $550-billion in assets on behalf of Canadians, finally committed to a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, in line with international targets set out in the Paris climate agreement. Rather than divesting holdings in carbon-intensive industries (like oil and gas) it seeks to invest in efforts to reduce their carbon footprints.
- Also read: Investors back ESG stock funds even as tech slide hurts returns
- The risk of not talking to clients about ESG is losing them, RI expert says
Each week The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week we’re highlighting the work of Dr. Elena Bennett doing intersection research of the land and the people on it.
Dr. Elena Bennett, professor and research chair in sustainability science at McGill University, is passionate about people and the planet. She was awarded an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in 2017.
“We used to talk a lot about nature thriving despite people, and then people thriving despite nature with Western expansion,” she says. “Later, it was, ‘How we can we set aside enough nature despite what people are doing?’ Now, we are looking at how people and nature interact and can thrive together.”
As a researcher, Dr. Bennett partners with communities and provides ecosystem services. She examines the connections between land use, biodiversity and ecosystems and informs decision-making to positively affect human well-being and the economy.
For example, she’s investigating the impact of people and landscapes coming together in the Montérégie, a suburbanizing agricultural region outside of Montreal that’s attracting city dwellers seeking greener pastures.
“I’m working at the cutting edge of natural and social sciences coming together,” Dr. Bennett says.
This is an excerpt from a Globe article: Is a greener future female? Read the full story here.
Do you know an engaged individual? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.
Photo of the week
Catch up on Globe Climate
- Machine-made snow at the Olympics and the future of winter sport
- Inside the fight to save one of Europe’s last wild rivers
- Ottawa’s energy-efficiency retrofit program struggles to meet demand
- A warming climate affects alpine environments (and avalanches)