Environment Canada offers Peter Kent tips to describe impact of climate change

The Calgary Herald printed article based on a memo written by Environment Canada for the Minister of Environment on the impacts of climate change in Canada.

See: Environment Canada offers Peter Kent tips to describe impact of climate change.

There is link in this article to the 33 page memo on the climate change risks.  The Calgary Herald summarizes the memo and the impacts in the memo could form a key part of any climate change risk assessment for Canada.

For example – There is talk about droughts as well as warmer winters allowing the pine beetle to expand its range and overwinter in the forests of B.C. and Alberta and then get over the Rockies into Saskatchewan. Historically the pine beetle was kept from making it over the Rockies because of the cold winters in the Prairies.  It would not historically been able to survive the winters.

More risks and impacts identified included  lower water levels in the Great Lakes forcing ships (see previous blog post for a reference to another article) to lighten loads.

The memo written by EC to the Minister is here


Great Lakes – decreased water levels

The New York times has a piece today about low water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan and the impact that this is having on shipping in the area as well as on communities.  As is pointed out, this is another impact which it is difficult to tell if it completely atrributable to climate change or not.  Lake levels do fluctuate over longer time frames as rain fall varies from year to year, evaporation changes and other variables change.

When thinking about risks from climate change, the risks to shipping due to decreased water levels in places like the Great Lakes needs to be considered.  The dynamic between increases sea levels and decreased freshwater levels also needs to be considered.  Maybe this means less of an impact on inland shipping than previously thought. On the other hand, sea water going further inland into freshwater ecosystems could impact the fisheries and other biological resources in these inland waters. 


Top 20 Cities with Billions at Risk from Climate Change: Cities by the Sea – Bloomberg

A study being done by the OECD is tracking cities by the sea and the amount of assets that are vulnerable and at risk.  The value is about $3 trillion and on tally to reach $35 trillion by 2070.

At Bloomberg webiste below, there are lots of nice pictures and statistics about 20 of these cities including Alexandria, Virginia Beach (USA), of course Rotterdam and Amsterdam and including some of the biggest cities in the world, Tokyo Hong Kong, Kolkata.

Top 20 Cities with Billions at Risk from Climate Change: Cities by the Sea – Bloomberg.

As i have already mentioned Victoria and Vancouver have started to develop adaptation strategies and ICLEI and the FCM have started to prepare planning and guidance documents for cities to think and start to adapt for the changing climate.

Climate Change Risk Assessment workshops in NB

A one day workshop is being offered through the New Brunwick Climate Change hub will provide infrastructure practitioners, planners, managers and decision-makers with information about, and practice with a practical tool and process that systematically assesses the risks of current and future climate on civil infrastructure.

Engineers Canada, in partnership with Natural Resources Canada, has developed and completed testing and evaluation of the PIEVC Engineering Protocol, which is a structured procedure using standard risk assessment methodologies to assess and fully document the vulnerability of infrastructure to the impacts of current and future climate. Two facilitated group sessions will demonstrate the steps in the Protocol through hands-on, small group exercises to define the infrastructure components and climate parameters and to undertake a qualitative risk assessment using completed case studies to illustrate real life applications.

This workshop will be of interest to engineers and geoscientists  who are involved in the pre-design, design, operation, maintenance and management of civil infrastructure. The  need to consider future  climate for these activities applies to  new infrastructure or rehabilitating or retrofitting existing infrastructure. It will also be relevant to municipal planners, managers and operators of infrastructure as well as provincial and territorial regulators and policy-makers to better understand the challenges that civil infrastructures face with current and future climate.  



Vancouver – adaptation strategy

The City of Vancouver is the first major Canadian City to issue and adopt a climate change adaptation strategy. They have built their strategy on the ICLE planning framework and done a significant amount of work leading up to this.  The history of what they have done is in this document.


Excerpts include

October 1990: Council adopted recommendations in the Clouds of Change report by the Task Force on Atmospheric Change. Recommendation #33 is to study adaptive measures and begin planning long-term measure to adapt to possible consequences of atmospheric change.

March 15, 2005: Council approved the Corporate and Community Climate Change Action Plans detailing goals and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Background recommendations came from the Cool Vancouver Task Force which was established by Council in 2003.

March 1, 2007: City Council directed staff to examine potential impacts of climate change on City of Vancouver infrastructure and identify measures to minimize these impacts.

May 27, 2008: Council received an informational report on climate change adaptation that recommended completion of a vulnerability and risk assessment to prioritize adaptation work. The report included climate projections and identified early issues and opportunities (sewers, parks and urban landscape, the water utility and roadways).

July 12, 2011: The Greenest City Action Plan was adopted by Council. A strategy under the Climate Leadership goal directs staff to report to council with an adaptation plan including action recommendations.

In this document, the City of Vancouver has also summarized what issues they expect to be dealing with from climate change impacts including increased intensity and frequency of heavy rain events and sea level rise.  They have proceeded identify the priority impacts and the priority actions. Two examples of priority actions that have been identified include encouraging faster separation of private side combined sewer connections in areas where City sewer separation is completed or underway and continue to incorporate best available climate projections in sewer and street design.

I believe the city of Victoria also released an adaptation strategy right around the same time and I will post on that soon as well.

Another climate change impact on the human economy – the skiing and winter sports industry – less snow, less snowpack, more expensive to make snow, less tourism, more travel.


At first blush, Alison Gannett’s sacrifices in the name of fighting global climate change don’t seem all that sacrificial. In 2001, the world champion extreme freeskier gave up helicopter skiing. She sold her snowmobile in 2005. Several years ago, she rejected a lucrative contract with Crocs because of the shoe company’s questionable environmental practices. (She kept her contract with the more sustainable Keen Footwear.) Just recently she turned down a photo shoot in the Alps because the flight over the pond was too much for her carbon footprint to bear.

Go ahead, roll your eyes. (Oh muffin … no heliskiing??) Then take note: Gannett walks the walk when it comes to living green. She and her husband grow their own food on an earth-friendly farm, and she’s battled to bring sustainable eats to residents in her rural corner of Colorado. Gannett has also leveraged her personal experience into a…

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Climate Change could lead to increased wildfire activity –

I wrote a paper for my masters degree on this exact topic…it did not involve any modelling and the hypothesis was exploring if global warming could increase forest fires and then forest fires would via  positive feedback loop increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and then more forest fires.  This was after a particularly bad year for forest fires in Northern Manitoba in 1989.  I wonder if I can dig that up somewhere.

More forest fires can impact investments in forest companies who have sawmills and pulp and paper plants in the area.  Sawmills generally do rely on some sort of local supply of wood.  Pulp and paper generally receives pulp from greater distances than sawmills receive their trees.  Other impacts include impacts on tourism, hunting and possibly the cottaging sector – dear to our hearts in Canada.  That is actually potential firekeg.  The cottage that we go to regularly in Ontario has a huge amount of deadwood in the underbrush and as these are of course managed areas with cottages, forest fires are not encouraged.  What it does mean is that when there is one, they tend to have more fuel and it is drier which means the fire is more intense, hotter and harder to manage.  With climate change potentially drying out the forest more due to higher temperatures, forest fires in cottage areas could also be increasing which could further increase costs to the insurance sector.  I will have some blogs on the insurance sector in the next week or so.  One of the areas which may be facing increased costs associated with climate change could be the insurance sector.  There is of course substantive debate whether these increased costs can be attributed at all to climate change or if it is because of increased land and property values because of development or because of increased densification or because we are slowly expanding and covering more and more of the earth’s surface and as a result a severe weather inevitably has to hit some human development.

Climate change could lead to increased wildfire activity in North America over the next 30 years: Berkeley study

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Climate change is expected to disrupt future fire patterns, with some regions, such as the western United States, seeing more frequent blazes within the next 30 years, notes a study in the peer-reviewed journal Ecosphere.

Conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the June 12 study found increasing fire activity across large parts of the planet. “But the speed and extent to which some of these changes may happen is surprising,” Max Moritz, a fire specialist in U.C. Cooperative Extension and the study’s lead author, suggests in a statement.

The study received support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Science Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. It used 16 different climate change models to generate what researchers contend is one of the most comprehensive projections to date of how climate change might affect global fire patterns.

“Most of the previous wildfire projection studies focused on specific regions of the world or relied upon only a handful of climate models,” says study co-author Katharine Hayhoe, associate professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.

The greatest disagreements among models occur for the next few decades. But the Berkeley study shows that for some areas, such as the western United States, there is a high level of agreement in climate models both near- and long-term.

“When many different models paint the same picture, that gives us confidence that the results of our study reflect a robust fire frequency projection for that region,” Hayhoe says.

Researchers project that, by century’s end, almost all of North America and most of Europe will see increased frequency of wildfires. Fire activity could decrease around equatorial regions over the same timeframe.

Higher wildfire frequency will be fuelled in large part by increasing temperature trends. More rainfall, though, could dampen fire activity in the equatorial regions, particularly among tropical rainforests.

Here is an example of some actions that are being taken to prepare for climate change and managing the risks of drought. This is a set of actions that is being done to potentially address drought which is also thought to be on the increase due to climate change. The article also discussed whether or not these approaches are even useful and as seen in the article this is up for debate.


In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the first genetically engineered drought-tolerant corn — despite minimal evidence of its actual drought tolerance. Since then, there’s been a steady stream of analysis suggesting that genetically engineering for this trait won’t give farmers much bang for their buck.

Engineering a plant for drought tolerance, which represents the interaction of many genes, isn’t like doing the same for traits like herbicide tolerance or pesticide expression, which hinge on a single gene. And even if successful, there’s no guarantee that the engineered plant will do as well in normal conditions as it does in drought.

When Wired Science blogger Brandon Keim looked at the potential for drought tolerance in corn, he concluded that the complexity:

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More businesses see risks from climate change

In addressing the issues from climate change, business is in many ways ahead of government and as part of the Carbon Disclosure Project, business are starting to see risks from climate change…

“…few politicians aside from President Obama dare utter the words “climate change,” more global businesses see its impact as a “real and present” danger to their operations, according to a new analysis from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

More than three-quarters (81 percent) of the world’s largest public companies that report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data and sustainability strategies now include physical threats and disruptions from climate change — such as flooding, drought and fires — among their corporate risk disclosures, reports the latest CDP Global 500 Climate Change report, co-written with professional services firm PwC.

What’s more, 37 percent of the 405 companies reporting to CDP list those factors as a serious threat, up from 10 percent in 2012.

“Extreme weather events are causing significant financial damage to markets,” said Paul Simpson, CEO of the CDP. “Investors therefore expect corporations to think more about climate resilience,” he said. “There are still leaders and laggards but the economic driver for action is growing, as is the number of investors requesting emissions data. Governments seeking to build strong economies should take note.””

Also from the same analysis comes the following statement:

“The companies with the best climate leadership strategies tend to be those that take a long-term view more than 10 years into the future. CDP has created a separate index to recognize these companies called the Carbon Performance Leadership Index (CPLI). The companies that make it onto these lists are generally generating superior returns for investors.”

These statements tend to be made a fair amount and the mistake that can be made is that companies that actually manage carbon are going to outperform other ones, when what it actually means is that these are well managed companies and they manage all risks and competitive threats well and it just so happens that carbon is one of these risks that also fall into this camp.

via CDP: More big businesses see risks from climate change | GreenBiz.com.

Adaptation vs Mitigation

Adaptation is quickly becoming part of the conversation when talking about climate change.  It has become less about mitigation over the last few years as the economy has struggled and people are less willing to talk about addressing carbon emissions because of the perception that they will cost money.

Many jurisdictions national, regional and state or provincial are starting to think about a transition to a green or low carbon economy and recognizing that this transition can be done at minimal costs.  Of course jurisdictions are transitioning to this low carbon economy in many ways including subsidizing low carbon industries like solar and wind.  British Columbia has taken an interesting approach by implementing a carbon tax and attempting to make it revenue neutral so that this policy measure does not actually cost more and reducing carbon emissions does not have to cost money as the system is to be designed so that other tax breaks are brought in at the same time to make the carbon tax revenue neutral to companies and individuals.

In another blog post, I will talk a little about some jurisdictions and how they are planning for and adapting to climate change.