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Climate change impact coming sooner than you think: U of W report

Canada will warm up to 2˚C by 2020, 4˚C by 2050; immediate action needed.


June 11, 2012
by PLANT STAFF

TORONTO: Canada can expect the temperature to increase by 2 degrees C by 2020 and 4 degrees C by 2050 as a result of climate change, according to a roadmap from the University of Waterloo and experts from across Canada.

The research project, funded by Intact Financial Corp., a Toronto-based insurance company, was conducted by the Waterloo, Ont. university and more than 80 experts from across the country.

Called the Climate Change Adaptation Project, it predicts rising temperatures across the country and substantial fluctuations in precipitation levels, all of which will leave a range of sectors, cities and rural regions in Canada vulnerable.

The report says Canada’s temperature will increase up to 2 degrees C by 2020 and 4 degrees C by 2050. Warming will have the most significant impact on the Arctic, where temperatures will rise up to 4 degrees C by 2020 and 8 degrees C by 2050, with precipitation increasing up to 20% by 2020 and 40% by 2050.

The impact across Canada will vary, according to the report: less summer precipitation for Vancouver, more snow for Winnipeg and milder winters for Toronto and Montreal.

The report targets city infrastructure, biodiversity, freshwater resources, Aboriginal communities and agriculture as the most vulnerable areas where adaptive solutions to address climate change are most urgently required.

“If there is one take-away from this project, it’s that climate change needs to be an important consideration in all planning processes, whether you work for industry, government, an NGO or within an Aboriginal community,” said Professor Blair Feltmate, director of sustainable practice of the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED), based at Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment.

The report outlines 20 recommendations that can be implemented according to priority over the short term. They include:

• City infrastructure. Conduct climate change vulnerability and risk assessments, evaluating the storm water run-off systems for capacity and resilience to future climate extremes and the incorporation of climate change adaptation into city planning policy.

• Biodiversity. Model climate change to help inform solutions, creating habitat corridors in human-dominated areas to assist migration and better management of exotic invasive species.

• Freshwater resources. Protect and restore wetlands and natural drainage systems, change the design of human infrastructure to conserve water quality and quantity and locate new communities and water-intensive industry where water will be plentiful despite the changing climate.

• Aboriginal communities. Provide comprehensive community capital planning (including the potential for community redesign and relocation) and integrate resiliency into community access and energy capacity.

• Agriculture. Provide agriculture-relevant information on climate change, incorporating it into planning decisions and developing adaptation recommendations that are specific to different roles and situations within the industry.

• Insurance. Update the National Building Code, incorporate these changes into new builds and modifications on current structures and launch a public campaign to inform Canadians about improvements they can make to homes and businesses to lessen risk.

Click here for a copy of the report.