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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
The Globe big read of the week comes from Eric Reguly in Cairo.
Climate change is making Egyptian summers hotter and drier, boosting evaporation rates. But there is an even bigger threat, one that does not even reside in Egypt. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has emerged not just as the greatest perceived environmental threat to the country but also the greatest security threat.
Read more about why Egypt sees a massive dam in Ethiopia as a matter of life and death.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- In anticipation of an EV revolution, Canada’s largest fuel companies are revamping gas stations into multipurpose leisure hubs. Imagine pulling off the highway into a charging station that includes a park, exclusive food and shopping options
- Rare Canadian specimens of ancient, bizarre creatures have a new home at the Royal Ontario Museum. The Globe took a look
- Climate study forecasts a rain-soaked Arctic, with the most significant effects expected sooner than previously predicted
- Opinion: Coal went from investor pariah to luvvie in one year. How did that happen as the planet warms up?
- Long read: When floods came to B.C.’s Nicola Country, a horse sounded the alarm – but saving the day was another job entirely
A deeper dive
The infrastructure meant to help in a flood failed. How will they manage climate changes to come?
Matthew McClearn has written about Canada’s disappearing coastlines, thawing permafrost, and the threat of floods in the country. For this week’s deeper dive, he talks about how the lack of flood preparedness in the face of climate change.
The weekend of Nov. 13 and 14 brought exceptionally heavy rains to British Columbia that triggered deadly mudslides, forced evacuations and wrecked highways and railways across the province’s south. But of all infrastructure that gave way, multiple breaches of the Sumas River Dike and Inceptor Dike in Abbotsford proved most consequential.
The Interceptor Dike’s job was to redirect floodwaters overflowing into Canada from the Nooksack River in Washington State into the Fraser River. But flying over the scene days later, Tamsin Lyle, principal of flood management consulting firm Ebbwater, observed a breach she guessed to be 60 to 80 metres across. Murky waters flowed onto the Sumas Prairie, a plain sandwiched between Sumas Mountain and Vedder Mountain about six kilometres across. It filled a former lake drained nearly a century ago to make way for agricultural land.
Dikes also failed in smaller communities. In Merritt, a city of more than 7,000, the Coldwater River inundated swaths of the downtown area and residential neighborhoods, moving around dikes almost as if they weren’t there. In Princeton, a town of fewer than 3,000 sandwiched between the Similkameen and Tulameen Rivers, the Tulameen breached a dike protecting the town in two places about 600 metres apart.
B.C.’s network of dikes is vast, stretching 1,100 kilometres. More than half of it lies in the densely-populated Lower Mainland: dikes virtually surround the coastal cities of Richmond, Surrey and Delta, defending against the Pacific Ocean, the Fraser River and its tributaries. All told, they protect 160,000 hectares, equivalent to slightly less than a third of Prince Edward Island.
Dikes afforded British Columbians confidence when settling in places that otherwise might have been considered forbidden territory. Increasingly overlooked was the price of this approach: eternal vigilance. Multiple reports produced during the past two decades have confirmed that many dikes haven’t been properly maintained and suffer from known defects. Most don’t even meet provincial standards that were set decades ago. They’re certainly not ready for the storms a warming climate is likely to throw at them. The costs of B.C.’s neglect of its dikes are still being assessed, but they are plainly astronomical.
- About first responders: A First Nations’ response is being held up as a model to help mitigate damage from future disasters.
- From The Narwhal: Ranchers and researchers have teamed up to use targeted grazing to reduce one source of forest fire fuel: grass
What else you missed
- Australian mining giant looks to Canada for green hydrogen projects
- Ottawa pledges $14.7-million to fight invasive species in mountain parks in Alberta and B.C.
- Quebec Liberal Party looks to redefine itself, centre pitch on environment in October election
- Nature Conservancy of Canada becomes new owner of endangered native grassland in Saskatchewan
- North Atlantic hurricanes have become more frequent as global temperatures climb, study suggests
Opinion and analysis
Tanya Talaga: In Northern Ontario, governments engage in a two-faced climate change response
Adam Radwanski: Ottawa starts to implement its new climate agenda – with a lot of details still to come
Marcus Gee: If we’re serious about reducing emissions, it’s time for a new look at nuclear energy
Kevin Barlow: B.C. must commit to protecting more of its natural environment, before the damage becomes too great to repair
Andrew Coyne: A higher carbon price could get us to Paris on its own, at much less cost to the economy
Editorial Board: It’s true: Lofty rhetoric doesn’t cut greenhouse gas emissions
Jatin Nathwani and Ann Fitz-Gerald: A non-partisan commission is what Canada needs to address the emerging national challenges presented by climate change
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan investing US$1-billion in U.S. alternative energy assets
Teachers said Tuesday it will pay US$849-million for a 50-per-cent share of 13 generation plants and storage facilities in nine U.S. states currently owned by NextEra Energy Resources LLC. The assets generate or store a total of 2,520 megawatts of energy, with about one-third of the capacity coming from two wind farms in Texas.
Investors can expect similar deals from Teachers and other big Canadian pension plans as they look to green up their portfolios, especially if they’ve made a pledge to become “net zero” – or have their carbon emissions from companies they invest in completely offset by investments in renewable energy or other means – by 2050.
Also: Investors forcing change on companies with lagging ESG principles
Each week The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week we’re highlighting the work of Angie Tran and Bernard Law making laundry sustainable.
We’re Angie Tran and Bernard Law, we are 35 years old, from Toronto. We have been a couple and business partners for the last five years. We eat a plant-based diet, love exploring nature, and have adopted three cats from the Animal Humane Society on our journey to a more sustainable lifestyle.
We’ve been in this space before to talk about Kind Laundry, which launched right in the middle of the pandemic back in August, 2020. Kind Laundry is a purpose-driven company whose mission is to provide a more eco-friendly laundry cleaning solution. We have eliminated over 100,000 single-use plastic jugs from going to the landfills and oceans in less than one year! We also have won awards for Best Eco Friendly Laundry Detergent, and Grand prizes as a startup and a clean pitch competition.
Every small action can make a huge direct impact on our planet. As more companies are finding ways to create zero-waste alternatives, we are starting to see more options in stores so this makes it much easier to find! Check out our favourite at bewea.com, a Canadian, women-owned company has done all the curations of better for the planet and for you.
- Angie and Bernard
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
- A look at the fragility of Canada’s food systems
- How are B.C.’s string of natural disasters connected?
- A deal was reached, but was COP26 a success?
- Five things to take away from the first week of COP26