Editor’s Note

My mother-in-law, an octogenarian in southern Ontario, phoned last weekend. An opening conversation about the weather, greater numbers of ticks and blossoms that don’t last as long as they once did transformed into a conversation about climate change. Carol was born in 1930, and she has seen unimaginable change within her lifetime, from depression years to prosperity. What concerns her most today is the change that is upon us, the change in our climate—a global phenomenon with acute local impacts. I asked, in her opinion, what needs to be at the heart in responding to this change? The answer, she told me, lies in engaging average Canadians. “We marched for the environment,” she said. “We marched for women. We marched for human rights.” These battles are now converging under the climate change umbrella. Often narrowly framed as an “environmental” issue, climate change has also become a socio-political and cultural context that defines our future adaptation options.

This climate change edition of HazNet explores this extraordinary context. In this issue, you will find out how climate change is affecting us and how we are responding to it, from high-level policy measures to action and solutions on the ground.

In our interview section, Preston Manning, former Member of Parliament and founder of two conservative parties in Canada, shares his thoughts on living within our means. He describes the shared root of the words ”conservation” and ”conservative” and the need to marry concerns for the economy with concerns for the environment. He shares stories he has heard from his supporters, from loggers in British Columbia who say warmer temperatures prevent winter from slowing invading pine beetles, to Northern Albertans who describe muskeg not frozen enough to get their work done, to residents of Tuktoyaktuk (Tuktuyaaqtuuq) who have to drive their pilings four feet deeper to address the melting permafrost.

Read an interview with Bob McDonald, host of CBC Radio’s weekly science program Quirks & Quarks, to find out how we can best communicate climate change. And read an interview with Ian Burton, scientist  emeritus  with  the  Adaptation  and  Impacts  Research Division  of the Meteorological  Service  of  Canada and an emeritus  professor  at  the  University  of  Toronto. A world-renowned scientist, Dr. Burton is widely credited as a founder of the adaptation science and policy domain, both internationally and in Canada.

In our policy section, you will find out how the federal government is framing and addressing adaptation through the Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change, the Adaptation Platform and other initiatives. We explore the commitments made and the work remaining, especially in connecting disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation through policy, action and investments.

In our practice section, you will find out how Health Canada, through partnerships with municipalities and regions, is addressing the urban heat-island effect, including measures to adapt the built environment such as playgrounds and schoolyards. In this section, you will learn about SaskAlert, Saskatchewan’s emergency program for alerting the public in real time and a single point of entry for notifications about emergency events as they unfold. You will also learn about resilience awareness and training methods employed by the Association of Municipal Administrators of New Brunswick to help member municipalities facing climate threats.

In our research section, our feature set of articles explore an exciting experiential learning methodology shared from the perspective of educators and students with an in-depth focus on field studies in Indonesia. In this section, you will also learn about the difficult conversation to be had about “retreat” as an adaptation option in Metro Vancouver region. And you will read how “building back better” practices are creating community resilience in Nepal.

Our CRHNet section features a message from Marion Boon, CRHNet’s executive director and an announcement about CRHNet awards. Read about the collaboration between CRHNet and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to support Indigenous knowledge sharing as part of our annual symposium. The 2017 CRHNet Symposium will take place in Halifax this year—a century after the tragic 1917 Halifax Explosion helped set in motion modern disaster science.

Readers will also be interested to know that the climate change theme will continue into the fall issue of HazNet as well. In that edition, we will focus on bridging disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, a theme that will also occupy the attention of the National Roundtable for Disaster Risk Reduction that precedes the CRHNet symposium. We will take a “taking stock and moving forward” approach, exploring and assessing how we’ve been planning for and managing disasters in Canada for the past 100 years.

After a century of change, it’s time—to echo my mother-in-law’s words—for Canadians to get actively engaged in shaping community resilience. Contact us and contribute to HazNet by sharing your stories about Canada’s disaster and climate resilience.

Lily Yumagulova

Editor, HazNet


As the HazNet team was working on this issue, stunning pictures that illustrate Canada’s turbulent weather and changing climate change captured global attention. We decided it was appropriate to include some of them on our cover:

The unforgettable image of a lawn-mowing man defying a tornado. In early June, a photo by Cecilia Wessels from Alberta became a social media sensation when it showed her husband, Theunis Wessels, casually mowing their backyard lawn as a fearsome tornado swirled behind him. “My beast mowing the lawn with a breeze in his hair,” – Cecilia wrote on her Facebook page which took global media by storm.  David Sills, a tornado expert with Environment and Climate Change Canada suggests Canadian homeowners should be cautious in the face of storms like these.  “If tornado winds get inside your home or garage, it becomes much easier for the tornado to remove the roof and even the walls,” he said. “So when Environment Canada issues a tornado watch or threatening weather approaches, make sure to close all windows and doors, including garage doors, and secure objects that could become missiles and break windows, such as lawn furniture should you have time to do so.” We thank Cecilia for sharing her images with HazNet. You can view the full gallery here.

Cecilia Wessels

Cecilia Wessels

An iceberg casually passing the town of Ferryland, Newfoundland. This beautiful, drifting iceberg created a stunning backdrop to Jody Martin’s photo. A spectacle normally reserved for early summer, hundreds of massive icebergs began showing up off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador before the official arrival of spring this year. As of April 6, 2017, 481 icebergs were spotted in the region by the Canadian Coast Guard Ice Operations in what could be the start of a record season. We thank Jody Martin for sharing her image with HazNet.

Jody Martin

Jody Martin

“River piracy” on Slims River, Yukon. Climate change is causing surprising geological changes. Scientist Dan Shugar shared this and other images to illustrate how the Slims River, which once flowed out to the Bering Sea, has had its watercourse transformed by the dramatic, climate-affected melt of the Kaskawulsch Glacier so that it now flows into the Kaskawulsh River.  What typically takes centuries, this example of “river piracy” was documented over the course of one spring with the largest shift occurring virtually overnight. “Nobody’s ever seen a river piracy occur in modern times, at least to my knowledge,” Shugar told the BBC. Climate change “may bring surprises that we are not appreciating fully and that we’re not necessarily prepared for”. We thank Dan Shugar for sharing his image with HazNet. You can view the full gallery here.

Dan Shugar

Dan Shugar

Leave a Comment