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Rising seas are threatening Canada's Atlantic and Pacific coasts: report

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Heavy rainfall and the resultant flooding in British Columbia and the East Coast have caused serious damage in recent weeks, but a new report suggests rising sea levels due to climate change pose a much greater flood risk for Canadians -- and little has been done to mitigate it.

The report, published on Thursday, found that nearly 4.8 million Canadians live within 10 kilometres of the eastern or western coastline, and are thus “likely to be greatly affected” by climate-change-induced flooding, either through rising sea levels, extreme weather events or changing tides.

“We can no longer manage coastal risks by endlessly fighting against natural processes,” Joanna Eyquem, managing director of Climate-Resilient Infrastructure at the Intact Centre and the reports author, said in a news release. “There are real win-win opportunities to work with nature in the long-term, with multiple benefits for the community and beyond.”

To help protect communities from this kind of flooding, the report suggests two protection methods, to be used in tandem: grey infrastructure, meaning sea walls and storm surge barriers, and natural-based solutions, such as dune and wetland restoration.

“As this year’s devastating floods in B.C. have shown, we are still not doing enough to defend our communities from the extreme impacts of climate change,” Chantal Guay, CEO of the Standards Council of Canada, said in the release. “In this new normal, all adaptation solutions -- including those that harness the power of nature -- need to be on the table.”

The report also profiled several coastal flooding mitigation measures that worked, including the development of sand dunes in the Netherlands and the hard coastal defences of the United Kingdom. Additionally, some projects have not succeeded, including seven-metre tall seawalls in Japan that did help protect the country from a storm surge, but did not help with coastal erosion.

As for Canada, the report indicates that the country “does not yet have a strategic planning framework or standard classification of approaches for coastal risk management.”

To properly build and maintain future flood mitigation measures, the report recommends Canada develop a set of national standards to support a consistent evaluation of nature-based solutions compared to infrastructure solutions, develop national monitoring standards for these solutions and to build the capacity to fund nature-based projects in the private sector.

The report from the University of Waterloo was produced as partof a partnership between the Standards Council of Canada, National Research Council Canada and Intact Financial.

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