Waterloo climate project reports continually rising temperatures
The Climate Change Adaptation Project report was released on June 11, 2012.
Temperatures are predicted to increase across Canada, with most signicant warming in the Arctic.
Temperatures across Canada are expected to rise continually in the next few years, which will significantly affect city infrastructure, biodiversity, freshwater resources, Aboriginal communities, agriculture, and more. Intact Financial Corporation and the University of Waterloo, along with 80 experts from across the country, released the Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP) report earlier in June, which outlines 20 practical and cost-effective recommendations that help people adapt to the change.
CCAP was funded by a grant from Intact Foundation, which was launched in 2010. It aims to reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change, and projects how Canada is going to adapt to the change in the future.
According to Jason Thistlethwaite, d irector for CCAP, the report mainly focuses on the processes needed to adapt to climate change, rather than its causes.
Some climate projections for Canada were developed in order to guide CCAP, and the results were quite striking. It is projected that Canada will continue to warm by up to two degrees Celsius by 2020 and four degrees by 2050.
“These changes will dramatically impact the way Canadians live,” said Thistlethwaite. “While some may welcome shorter winters, a two to four [degrees] increase in average temperatures across the summer will certainly create significant challenges.”
The change in temperatures of a couple of degrees might seem irrelevant to some; however, it severely affects people’s lives. For example, there is a significant difference between 31 degree Celsius and 35 degree Celsius, because heat and humidity will cause health problems for those unable to access air conditioning. Also, the difference will cause some damage to infrastructure, such as roads, which may buckle under extreme heat.
According to Thistlethwaite, a warmer atmosphere also creates conditions more conducive to extreme weather. For example, storms and high winds will become more frequent and more intense, especially in those areas that have already experienced this kind of weather.
“Often, these storms generate significant amounts of precipitation in a short period of time,” said Thistlethwaite. “This rain can overwhelm sewer infrastructure and cause urban and basement flooding. In fact, basement flooding is now the number one cost for the Canadian property and casualty insurance industry. ”
The report also projects an increase of up to four degrees by 2020 and eight degrees by 2050 in Arctic area. Compared to other areas, the climate change in Arctic environment is disproportionate.
What’s the implication? The change in climate will cause sea ice to recede, opening up water and transportation routes for longer periods of time. Permafrost will melt which will consequently threaten the stability for a lot of infrastructures. Traditional sources of foods will migrate further north away from Inuit and other northern communities.
“Perhaps the greatest concern is positive feedback,” said Thistlethwaite. “Warming in the Arctic could accelerate the release of trapped greenhouse gases (i.e. gases trapped within permafrost could be released once it melts), that could further intensify warming. As sea ice recedes, water will absorb more heat from the sun, which will further intensity the retreat of sea ice. ”
The final report of CCAP explains that increase in greenhouse gas emissions is the driving force behind climate change. The report states,“as of 2012, global CO2 concentration equalled 394 parts per million (ppm), which is approximately 100 ppm higher than global concentrations of CO2 over the past 900,000 years, and this concentration is projected to increase under virtually every modelling projection.”
According to Thistlethwaite, the CCAP Final Report is the first effort to prioritize climate change challenges that Canada should address to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
“Unfortunately, climate change is a reality that is already taking a toll on many parts of our country,” said Professor Blair Feltmate in UW Daily Bulletin. “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.”
The report tries to offer some understanding of the challenges around climate change, and it provides cost-effective solutions that can improve the resilience of our country to many different climate risks.
City infrastructure, biodiversity, freshwater, Aboriginal communities and agriculture have been identified to be the top 5 high-priority sectors for climate change adaptation in Canada.
The report also highlights three key areas for the property and casualty insurance sector, as reflective of the involvement of Intact Financial Corporation, a major insurance provider in Canada.
For industries, governments, and individuals, consideration of historic as well as future changes in the climate should take top priority in any planning process.
“Too often, decision making relies on historical experience to prioritize resources or plan management strategies,” said Thistlethwaite. “Historical experience is no longer the best indicator for what could happen tomorrow, or several years down the road.”
To properly incorporate climate change in decision making, it is important to improve resiliency of different human and natural systems to a set of conditions likely to occur. For example, it is necessary to utilize more permeable material that allows water to seep into the ground instead of remaining on the surface, which could potentially cause urban flooding.
Among all ages, the young generation is the most exposed to climate change, because they are the ones who will be facing the consequences in the near future.
According to Thistlethwaite, the report offers a more proactive approach to explaining climate change rather than the “gloom-and-doom” scenarios often discussed in the media.
Students should use the report to prompt discussions about climate change, and how their generation can mobilize support for integrating climate change adaptation into our communities and economy.