Thursday, February 1, 2018

Climate 2050: Adapting to climate change; reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The earth’s climate is changing. For our cities, regions, and society to survive these changes, we will have to adapt. The Metro Vancouver Regional District is internationally known for creating long-term plans and policies that are for the most part actionable and successful in meeting their objectives. The regional district is now in the process of creating Climate 2050, a climate action strategy for Metro Vancouver. This long-term plan will address both ways to adapt to climate change, and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is already occurring due to an increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. In Metro Vancouver, this means we will see warmer temperatures, longer summer dry spells, wetter falls and winters, more extreme precipitation events, decreased snowpack, and sea level rise.

What does this mean for our region and its economy?

Anticipated Climate Impacts in the 2050s in Metro Vancouver. Select graphic to enlarge.

Drinking water supply and demand: Reduced snowpack and hotter, drier summers could put strain on the existing water supply during times of the year when temperatures are high and water is in greatest demand. The risk of landslides affecting water quality in supply reservoirs may increase due to extreme precipitation events.

Sewerage and drainage: Wastewater treatment facilities will be impacted by higher influent volumes and sea level rise, increasing energy required for pumping. Sewers near the Fraser River and the ocean will be at risk of flooding due to sea level rise. Infrastructure will need to be upgraded to maintain current expectations of drainage and flood protection.

Ecosystems and agriculture: As the climate shifts, it will disrupt the fragile equilibrium in our natural environment. The plants, trees, and animals within the ecosystems that have historically thrived in our region will be impacted.

Air quality and human health: Increases in the number, extent and duration of wildfires will impact air quality in the Lower Fraser Valley. Air pollution expected in the Metro Vancouver region will include smoke from distant fires, and increases in ground-level ozone. Health impacts related to heat stress will also increase in a population not accustomed to higher temperatures.

Buildings and energy systems: Increasing summer heat will increase cooling requirements for occupied buildings, and therefore electricity demand. This in turn will impact the provincial energy infrastructure, which is designed for peak winter demand. Energy efficiency and passive cooling will become increasingly important in buildings, and the business case to build and retrofit to high efficiency standards will improve.

Transportation, recreation and tourism: Warmer winters and less frost may improve road safety and increase the opportunities to walk or cycle year round. However, warmer temperatures will mean less snow in the local mountains, which is a concern for the winter sport recreation industry.

In order to prevent more extreme impacts due to climate change, the following graphic shows the reduction in GHG emissions that must occur by 2050.

Getting to 80% reducing in GHG emissions by 2050 in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

The regional district is now in the process of engaging with stakeholders. Based on those results, Metro Vancouver staff will start the process of developing the actual long-term plan. The Climate 2050 long-term plan is expected to be completed at the end of this year.

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