Cana­dian cities need more work on climate change plans: study

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - BOB WEBER

A study sug­gests most Cana­dian cities have yet to as­sess the threat posed by climate change de­spite be­ing the most ex­posed to any weather dis­as­ters it could cause.

A sur­vey of 63 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of all sizes from coast to coast found ma­jor gaps in how most are prepar­ing for com­ing con­di­tions and in how they are re­duc­ing their con­tri­bu­tion to the prob­lem.

“Cities are the most vul­ner­a­ble gov­ern­ment to climate change in Canada but have the least re­sources in or­der to man­age the prob­lem, so it’s im­per­a­tive that they have some strat­egy or plan,” said Ja­son Thistleth­waite, a Univer­sity of Water­loo pro­fes­sor and coau­thor of the pa­per pub­lished in the jour­nal Cli­matic Change.

Thistleth­waite and his col­leagues mea­sured the plans against 46 in­di­ca­tors that in­clude base­line in­for­ma­tion, goals, im­ple­men­ta­tion, eval­u­a­tion and pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“Al­most all plans failed to in­clude an as­sess­ment of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to spe­cific climate change im­pacts,” the pa­per says.

Only seven com­mu­ni­ties had iden­ti­fied spe­cific neigh­bour­hoods that might be vul­ner­a­ble. A dozen iden­ti­fied spe­cific lo­cal in­dus­tries at risk.

Many cities hadn’t done enough re­search to be able to write a com­pre­hen­sive plan.

Sci­en­tists are in­creas­ingly able to at­tribute ex­treme weather events to the in­flu­ence of climate change. And when floods or wild­fires de­stroy lives and prop­erty, it’s usu­ally in a city.

“Where are most of our peo­ple and prop­erty?” Thistleth­waite said. “They’re in cities. There’s a con­cen­tra­tion there of ex­po­sure.”

Cities are caught in a bind, he said. Not only are they al­ready strapped for cash to fill pot­holes and run buses, but their main source of in­come can con­flict with the need to plan for climate change.

“Their rev­enue’s from prop­erty taxes, so they want to ex­pand de­vel­op­ment. When they say they’re go­ing to re­strict de­vel­op­ment in a cer­tain area, that (cre­ates) in­cred­i­ble pres­sure for them to ig­nore the ad­vice of their staff.”

The sur­vey con­cluded that Kingston has Canada’s best mu­nic­i­pal climate change plan.

It was the re­sult of more than a year’s ef­fort and in­cluded com­puter mod­el­ling of what the lo­cal climate might look like in 2050. That work con­cluded that the num­ber of ex­treme heat days is likely to in­crease to 30 from four and the num­ber of ex­treme pre­cip­i­ta­tion events to dou­ble to nine.

“That re­ally drives home the point to some peo­ple,” said Paul Ma­cLatchy, Kingston’s en­vi­ron­ment di­rec­tor.

“(It’s) a lit­tle bit fright­en­ing. Things do change re­mark­ably. The in­fra­struc­ture we rely on ev­ery day is that much harder to keep func­tion­ing in a re­li­able way.”

Fail­ing to plan for climate change has real con­se­quences, said Thistleth­waite.

“You’re likely to see prop­erty taxes go up as mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are forced to col­lect more money to pay for dam­aged in­fra­struc­ture. You’re likely to see prop­erty val­ues go down in ar­eas where there are re­cur­ring high risks.”

Ma­cLatchy said Kingston was able to do the work with the help of a pro­gram from the Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Thistleth­waite said cities need more re­sources to plan for heat waves, ice storms, wild­fires and floods. “We need to see much more lead­er­ship from up­per tiers of gov­ern­ment.”

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