Saturday, August 6, 2011

Extreme weather events costing Alberta millions

Graham Thomson in the Edmonton Journal: After announcing another $189 million in relief for Slave Lake this week, the Alberta government seems to be in danger of becoming a de facto insurance company cleaning up after disasters. We'll certainly be seeing more disasters followed by more provincial government payouts if scientific predictions prove accurate about extreme weather events.

Forest fires, floods and Mother Nature's chainsaw, the mountain pine beetle, cost the government roughly $450 million a year. That's not including the $290 million in total allocated to the Slave Lake fire. It doesn't include the $700 million the insurance industry itself will spend rebuilding Slave Lake. The government has understandably been supportive to all the residents of Slave Lake. Privately, though, some officials are worried the generosity may set an expensive precedent.

...Those private concerns remain deeply buried in government departments. Nobody, after all, wants to look like a cold-hearted calculator in the face of human tragedy. And no bureaucrat wants to contradict political leaders, including Sustainable Resources Minister Mel Knight, who insist that the ferocious nature of the Slave Lake fire was a "one-off" disaster unrelated to climate change and wilder weather.

...But scientists who study forests and the climate are sure he's wrong. They call the Slave Lake fire a billion-dollar wakeup call. So does the Insurance Bureau of Canada - and there's nothing more cold and calculating than numbers from an insurance underwriter....

Great Slave Lake at Yellowknife, shot by sfbnurse, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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