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Cities urged to plan ahead for climate change effects

Jun 13 2012

Climate change needs to be a factor in all planning processes in Canada, from industry and government to humanitarian work and within aboriginal communities, says the author of the country's most comprehensive report on climate-change adaptation.

"Unfortunately, climate change is a reality that is already taking a toll on many parts of our country," said Blair Feltmate, director of sustainable practice at the University of Waterloo's environment faculty, and author of the Climate Change Adaptation Project report, released Monday.

"When you consider that the 10 warmest winters on record have all happened since 1998, it becomes clear that we need to think immediately about how Canada must adapt," Feltmate said in a statement.

The City of Victoria is already addressing potential issues, said sustainability director Roy Brooke.

He emphasizes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: "The cost-effectiveness of spending money now to save money later is an important message for people to know about. There's no need for us to panic at all, but there's no space for us to be complacent."

The report outlines the priorities as climate change challenges the country, said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo.

"It's quite clear that there will be serious implications for Canadians if we stand still while our weather patterns continue to evolve," Hamdullahpur said.

Climate projections were developed to guide the report. The results show that Victoria could warm by up to up 2.3 C by 2050, and see more days over 30 C, with more humidity.

Precipitation across the country could increase by 20 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2005.

By the 2050s, Victoria could see a 14 per cent increase in winter precipitation and 32 per cent decrease in summer rain.

Sea level could rise by 45 cm by 2050, which will be most visible during winter high tides. By 2100, there could be a sea-level increase of 94 cm.

Toronto and Montreal could see milder temperatures, said the report.

The report recommends that:

- Cities evaluate their stormwater runoff systems for capacity.

- Aboriginal communities be prepared to relocate vulnerable communities.

- Building codes be updated to reflect challenges posed by the changing climate.

Victoria is vulnerable because of its location, Brooke said.

"The fact we're right on the ocean is important, and the fact a lot of our buildings and infrastructure are at or near sea level," he said.

"Any area that currently has some flooding - Ross Bay and James Bay - it's logical to think that in a climate-changed world, there will be even more impact."

Climate-change adaptation has been incorporated into Victoria's draft official community plan for the next 30 years.

The city will release its Climate and Energy Resiliency Plan later this year.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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