Canada seeks up­dated cli­mate change pre­dic­tions for new build­ing codes

North Bay Nugget - - OPINION - MIA RABSON

OT­TAWA — The Na­tional re­search Coun­cil says Canada’s homes and high­ways were built with as­sump­tions about weather pat­terns that are no longer rel­e­vant, thanks to cli­mate change.

Now the NRC is ask­ing for help to fig­ure out what kind of weather to ex­pect in the com­ing years, so it can re­vamp na­tional build­ing codes to en­sure ev­ery­thing from houses and of­fice tow­ers to bridges and wastew­a­ter sys­tems can with­stand the con­se­quences of a warmer planet.

“Canada’s build­ings and public in­fra­struc­ture sys­tems ... are de­signed based on his­toric data assuming a sta­tion­ary cli­mate, and were not de­signed to ac­com­mo­date cer­tain ex­treme weather events be­ing at­trib­uted to cli­mate change,” reads a Nov. 6 ten­der is­sued by the coun­cil.

“As such, there is a grow­ing risk of fail­ure of build­ings and in­fra­struc­ture.”

From melt­ing per­mafrost and coastal ero­sion due to higher sea lev­els in the north, to the un­usual warmth and dry­ness of the sum­mer in bri­tish Columbia this year, ex­perts say Canada has al­ready started to bear wit­ness to the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

Prime min­is­ter Justin Trudeau warned about the in­creas­ing fre­quency of ex­treme weather last spring while he was tour­ing homes in west­ern Que­bec dam­aged by the en­gorged ot­tawa river.

The costs faced by the fed­eral dis­as­ter fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance pro­gram have also soared. since 2011, the pro­gram has spent an av­er­age of $360 mil­lion a year, three times what the av­er­age an­nual cost was over the pre­vi­ous decade. most of that is for floods and for­est fires.

Adapt­ing the build­ing code to mit­i­gate and adapt to new weather pat­terns is one of the com­mit­ments of the na­tional cli­mate change frame­work, agreed to by ot­tawa and 11 prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries al­most a year ago. In the spring bud­get, ot­tawa set aside $40 mil­lion over five years for the Nrc’s five-year cli­mate-re­silient build­ings project.

But be­fore the build­ing codes can be adapted, the NRC needs to know what kind of ex­treme weather to ex­pect.

The ten­der seeks a con­sul­tant to up­date weather and cli­mate data for 660 lo­ca­tions across the coun­try, in­clud­ing ex­pected tem­per­a­tures, wind pat­terns, rain and snow fall, and hu­mid­ity.

The suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cant will work with the me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal ser­vice of Canada as well as of­fi­cials from en­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Canada to de­velop in­for­ma­tion about the ex­pected im­pacts from av­er­age in­creases in global tem­per­a­ture from 0.5 de­grees Cel­sius up to a max­i­mum of 5 C.

The earth has al­ready warmed up more than one de­gree on av­er­age com­pared to prein­dus­trial lev­els and the Paris cli­mate change ac­cord com­mits the world to try­ing to keep it from hit­ting two de­grees by the end of the cen­tury.

Justin tang/the CANA­DIAN PRESS

Peo­ple walk past the flooded park­ing lot of the Pebb Build­ing, lo­cated across from the Ot­tawa River, fol­low­ing a rain storm in Ot­tawa in Oc­to­ber.

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