Waterloo researchers release historic climate change report

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Jason Thistlethwaite at podium

Climate Change Adaptation Project Director Jason Thistlethwaite explains everyday changes we can make to adapt to a shifting climate.

Monday June 11th marked an historic day for the University of Waterloo Faculty of Environment and climate change research in Canada. In front of a packed audience at the MaRS Centre in Toronto, Waterloo associate professor Dr. Blair Feltmate and Dr. Jason Thistlethwaite launched, Climate Change Adapation: A Priorities Plan for Canada; a detailed action plan for climate change adaptation drawing on information from more than 80 experts in multiple areas of Canadian society.

The pair was joined on stage by Charles Brindamour Chief Executive Officer of Intact Financial Corporation who co-sponsored what is the largest project of its kind focused on how Canada must adapt to the effects of climate change.

Throughout the launch Feltmate, who chaired the Climate Change Adaptation Project, and Thistlethwaite, the project’s director, painted a troubling picture of just where our climate is headed in the coming years. Based on projections, Canada will continue to warm by up to 2˚C by 2020 and 4˚C by 2050. The most significant impact will be in the Arctic, which will see increases of up to 4˚C by 2020 and 8˚C by 2050, along with increased precipitation of up to 20 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2050.

However, the purpose of the report is not to measure climate change – that’s already been done. Rather the project seeks to identify where our society is most at risk from climate change and to engage decisions makers at the highest levels on potential solutions.

“Climate change has occurred and it will continue to occur,” says Feltmate.  “Accordingly, the Climate Change Adaptation Project provides specific guidance to help Canada adapt to climate change through specific actions that are practical, meaningful and cost-effective.  In the absence of embracing adaptation to climate change, Canada will be competitively disadvantaged.”

City infrastructure, biodiversity, freshwater resources, aboriginal communities and agriculture were targeted as the most vulnerable areas where adaptive solutions to address climate change are most urgently required.  The report outlines 20 practical and cost-effective recommendations that can be implemented immediately.

“Protecting city infrastructure, such as choosing road materials that can withstand variable temperatures so we can prevent pot holes, is one example,” Thistlethwaite points out. “In the north, the report recommends the developing contingency plans in the event ice roads are not available for transporting supplies to communities and industry”

Intact Financial Corporation is a natural partner for the Faculty of Environment in the quest to find practical and cost-effective ways to adapt to our changing climate. The report points out that in the 1990s, basement flooding replaced fire damage as the most expensive source of home insurance claims. That is just one of the many clear examples of how climate change is impacting not only our lives but also our largest economic sectors. “The building code should require that homes are designed to be resilient to the types of weather we expect with climate change,” added Thistlethwaite. “All new homes exposed to potential basement flooding should install a backwater valve to defend against intense rain events as the atmosphere becomes more humid.”

In a closing statement, Brindamour acknowledged that it would take a coordinated effort between business, academe and policy makers to make change happen. “This project is a road map for Canada. It is about action and outcomes... but today is just the first step,” says Brindamour.

Download Climate Change Adaptation: A Priorities Plan for Canada.

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