Flooding, heat waves and drought threaten P.E.I. in the future: Climate change report

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This scene from post-tropical storm Dorian could become more common on P.E.I. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)
This scene from post-tropical storm Dorian could become more common on P.E.I. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)

Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled Our Changing Planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.

Heat waves, flooding, ice storms and drought are among the scenarios Islanders will face in coming decades due to climate change, according to a climate change risk report released Wednesday.

At Lennox Island First Nation, with many homes close to water, and the only road access by causeway, they're taking the risk seriously.

"We are worried, very worried," said Chief Darlene Bernard. "Climate change is real. We're a small coastal community. We're worried because … Hurricane Dorian, it opened our eyes."

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"We know there's more storms coming, and there's going to be more erosion happening."

The 176-page climate risk assessment says by 2050 Islanders will see significantly more severe weather, including coastal erosion, heat waves, heavy rain, flooding, severe ice storms and drought.

The report warns of possible fatalities in heat waves — especially among seniors, infants and people already at risk.

At Martha Place, an affordable housing complex in Charlottetown, units include heat pumps, and president of Kings Square Affordable Housing, Bill Campbell, said future projects will include even more measures like extra insulation in roofs and walls.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

"All this stuff costs money and we don't have any option anymore. We've got to start doing that to prepare for the consequences of climate change," Campbell said.

Kings Square plans to break ground on 120 new affordable housing units in Summerside anytime now, including those added measures to soften the blow of climate change.

'Last summer was like a drought'

P.E.I.'s rivers and streams, and the fish that live in them, will be at risk — both from flooding and from drought.

Staff at Central Queens Wildlife Federation say they're already seeing changes.

Brian Higgins/CBC
Brian Higgins/CBC

"Last summer was like a drought," said Jordan Condon.

"Salmon were using weird habitats to breed just because water levels were so low, so that might have a long-term effect, using lower-quality habitat."

Community loosing 'feet' of shoreline

Back on Lennox Island, one resident told CBC News they could see shoreline erosion with their own eyes, little by little.

They've reinforced their commercial wharf with extra rocks along the shore in recent years.

"Our community has lost feet. Feet, feet, feet, not inches," Chief Bernard said. She said they've tallied the cost of moving the entire community, if need be, and it could reach upwards of $50 million.

For now, they're proposing to install more rock, and tons of it, to protect the shoreline there.

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