IN SESSION WEBINAR – JUNE 17 – Key Findings of the Working Group II Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

Tuesday June 17th, 2014 from 1:30pm-2:30pm EDT

Presenter: Dr. Stewart J. Cohen, Senior Researcher, Climate Research Division, Environment Canada

This webinar is being delivered jointly by ICLEI Canada and the Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) at Simon Fraser University.

The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report consists of four volumes, one of which is the Working Group II report entitled “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.” The Summary for Policymakers, based on the underlying report, was approved by governments on March 31, 2014, and contains information on observed and projected impacts, and adaptation.

Dr. Stewart Cohen, a Senior Researcher with the Climate Research Division, Environment Canada will present key findings from the Working Group II report on this webinar.  Dr. Cohen contributed to Canada’s first national climate change assessment report, “Canada Country Study”, as well as the 2007 National Assessment, and “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” published in 2009. Since 1992, he has contributed to publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. For the IPCC 5th Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, he is a member of the author team of the chapter “Foundations for Decision Making” as well as a member of the core writing team for the Summary for Policymakers which was released on March 31.
Climate Change: Implications for Cities, a summary report of key findings from the 5th Assessment, will also be presented.  The newly launched report, produced by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the University of Cambridge, synthesizes the most pertinent findings of AR5 specifically for the “city sector”.


ICLEI Canada is hosting a series of webinars on various climate change and sustainability issues at the local level.  The In Session series offers expert-led presentations on many subject areas as they relate to sustainability planning, biodiversity management, communicating climate change, municipal best practices, capacity building, and research.


Presentation slides and recordings of past webinars can be found on our Resources page: Past Webinars



Should water managers put their head in the sand about climate change, or not?

West Coast Environmental Law Blog, October, 2013


Recently the BC Water and Waste Association (BCWWA) posted a video of a short talk that West Coast Staff Lawyer, Deborah Carlson, gave last June to their Climate Change Committee.  The talk, which is intended to be a first video resource for the planners and engineers that are members of the BCWWA, looked at the question: are local governments and professionals dealing with water management more likely to be sued if they seriously examine for climate impacts?

The question sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually one that we’re hearing more and more.  Obviously if governments are more likely to be sued if they pay attention to climate change, that would create a big incentive for governments to ignore the best science and to fail to create plans and strategies to adapt to a changing climate.

However, our view is that responsible governments – governments that inform themselves about the best available climate science and the likely impacts on their communities – are less, rather than more likely, to be successfully sued.

What local governments are worried about

Climate change will have huge implications for infrastructure that BC’s communities are responsible to build and maintain, and for how planning is done.  And, if it’s done wrong, there is a real risk that they will be sued for the resulting damage.  As Zizzo Allan Climate Law LLP has written:

In addition to continuing to mitigate climate change through efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions both locally and globally, municipalities should adapt to this new normal. … Canada has already witnessed civil law suits filed against municipalities for failing to maintain appropriate infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather. For instance, in 2002, following a flood in Stratford, Ontario, residents brought a class action against the City of Stratford for failure to take preventative action and improve the water management system despite prior flooding and warnings. The court certified the class and the case was eventually settled for $7.7 million, after the City had already paid out over $1.2 million in emergency relief. …

Municipalities have, in effect, been put on notice that potentially significant civil liability could arise from system failures and flooding events.

But some local governments and the professionals advising them – looking for an out – wonder whether it’s only once they have detailed information about how climate change will impact their community that the possibility of lawsuits kicks in.  They worry that a study showing that their community will have more flooding would be a smoking gun in a court case, and that it’s safer not to know.

Why it’s better to be informed

In preparing her talk, Deborah was asked:

[w]hether, by virtue of obtaining information through a climate change risk assessment … a local government would now face greater liability than if it had, say, just kept its head in the sand.

For a number of reasons she concludes that local governments are better off being informed by the best available science.  These reasons include:

  • There is already “a significant amount of information available about the impacts of climate change in BC”, and the available information is growing.  See, for example, the Plan2Adapt website.  This means that the data that governments might try to avoid creating is already available, and they could be considered negligent if they fail to consider it.
  • A local government that is well informed about climate impacts, but makes a policy choice not to immediately address some of the risks identified, is probably not liable for that policy decision.
  • Litigation concerning damage to private property from the failure of municipal infrastructure that was unable to accommodate climate change impacts may be framed as a nuisance claim.  In such a case, the question of whether the government had knowledge of the changing climate is less relevant.  Moreover, a local government that lacks information about climate change impacts may fail to adopt structural and non-structural measures that could help reduce its exposure to claims related to infrastructure failure, while protecting citizens and property.
  • Ignoring climate change may give rise to higher insurance costs, because insurers are already responding to climate-related risks, and Canadian insurers in particular are collecting data about weather-related events and climate change that will likely have an impact on insurance premiums;
  • Lack of information may prevent local governments from taking advantage of cost-effective opportunities to upgrade infrastructure, including options for green infrastructure that can support greater resilience to climate change impacts.

For more on these and other points, check out Deborah’s full presentation.

By Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer



2014 Rising Seas Summit – Sept. 2014 in NYC!


Register today — early bird registration now available!

The inaugural Rising Seas Summit brought together more than 170 professionals from national and local government, industry, academic institutions and environmental NGOs together to highlight the interrelationships between sea level rise, climate change and extreme events. Understanding, anticipating and adapting to water related threats is critical to national security and a stable economy. Sea level rise will continue to damage coastal ecosystems and inland water systems, and the recent catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Sandy have demonstrated the risks faced by all coastal communities on the U.S. eastern seaboard. These new environmental challenges require that stakeholders share knowledge and work together to reduce and mitigate environmental and social degradation induced by climate change.

Program Highlights

  • 2 CCOTM training bootcamps on the basics of sea level rise and conducting vulnerability assessments
  • Meetings, workshops and roundtable discussions with Federal and local government officials leading adaptation planning efforts on behalf of their respective organizations
  • 4 plenary sessions featuring elected officials, Federal agency leaders, recognized thought leaders and scientific experts
  • 6 breakout panel discussions examining best practices on modeling and planning for sea level rise, providing case studies from existing efforts, quantifying the term economic implications of sea level rise, making sound investments, planning for more frequent and significant extreme events
  • CCO Roundtable networking lunch in which senior officials and experts from across sectors share their experience and wisdom with attendees

Rising Seas Summit Steering Committee

  • Pinar Balci – Director, Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis, New York City Department of Environmental Protection
  • Margaret Davidson – Acting Director, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • John Englander – Author, High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis
  • Jennifer Jurado – Director, Natural Resources Planning and Management Division, Broward County (FL)
  • Daniel Kreeger – Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers
  • Sara Law – Manager, Special Projects, CDP
  • Michael Mondshine – Vice President, Sustainability & Energy, WSP Group
  • Susanne Torriente – Assistant City Manager, City of Fort Lauderdale

Check out the website for more details.


“Global Warming” or “Climate Change”: Does it make a difference?


In January 2014, George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication conducted a nationally representative experimental study and found that the terms global warming and climate change often mean different things to Americans. The two terms activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond. We found that the term global warming is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement, and support for personal and national action than the term climate change.

For example, the term global warming is associated with greater certainty that the phenomenon is happening, and greater understanding that human activities are the primary cause among Independents. The term is also associated with greater understanding that there is a scientific consensus about the reality of the phenomenon among Independents and liberals. You can download the report here: What’s In A Name? Global Warming vs. Climate Change.


CBC national radio debate on Green Growth Tonight – May 27 @ 9 PM on “Ideas”

Join 500,000 Canadians tonight (May 27) for a national radio debate on Green Growth, on CBC’s “Ideas” program at 9 PM.  See below for more details.

The show features a live debate that took place at a major conference in Ottawa last month on Big Ideas for Sustainable Prosperity – Policy Innovation for Greening Growth, which brought together some of the world’s biggest thinkers on this issue.



It’s widely acknowledged that unfettered economic growth is impossible. Yet our reliance on fossil fuels and a growth-based economy seem intractable. So is the notion of “green growth” the answer? Is there a way to capitalize on capitalist motives and practices and live sustainably? IDEAS host Paul Kennedy hosts a panel at the University of Ottawa which wrestles with these very questions.

Tuesday, May 27  -  9PM



Don’t miss the powerful speech by Jeremy Oppenheim, Director of the major new Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate.  He makes a compelling case for the economic opportunities offered by the new climate economy, and issues a stern warning to Canada on the risks of ignoring those opportunities. This inspiring speech was covered in the Globe and Mail.

CPAC    |   YouTube



Videos from the conference are now online. Check out our website for inspiring teaching materials from leading scholars on green economy.

SP Website



We asked some of the most prominent environment-economy thinkers in the world for their “Big Ideas for Sustainable Prosperity” — and wow, did they ever think big.

Michelle’s Blog Recap


Feedback Invited on New Land Use Guidelines to Address Sea Level Rise

New guidelines for land use development in areas affected by sea level rise are under consideration by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Local Governments are invited to provide comments by early August.  Read More



North Coast Draft Plan for Input

WhaleNorth Coast Draft Marine Plan Released

The North Coast – Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society and the Province of British Columbia would appreciate your feedback on the North Coast draft Marine Plan during the public review period, which runs April 29 – June 3, 2014.

For more background on the Marine Planning Partnership initiative and how First Nations and the Province of British Columbia are working together, here are “Things to know about MaPP” in a question and answer format. You can also learn more about the MaPP initiative from our video.

How to Provide Feedback on the Draft Plan

You are welcome to comment in one or all of the following ways:
• Attend a community public meeting
• Fill out a response form – online or download a hard copy
• Send us an email

Comments will be received until June 3, 2014.

Community Public Meetings

There will be two public meetings on the North Coast, one in Prince Rupert and one in Kitimat. Participants will have an opportunity to review maps and displays and to speak one-on-one with representatives of the North Coast – Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society and the provincial government. Each meeting will begin with an open house followed by a presentation on the draft plan (see below). The planning team will be available to answer questions and respond to comments following the presentation.

Times and Agendas

Open House: 5:30 – 6:30? pm
Presentation and questions: 6:30 – 8 pm

Dates and Locations

Prince Rupert – May 12, 2014
North Coast Meeting and Convention Centre
240 1st Avenue West

Kitimat – May 13, 2014
Kitimat Valley Institute
1352 Alexander Avenue

Online Response Form

If you are unable to attend a public meeting or you have additional information to contribute, please provide your input by June 3, 2014 using this online response form. Or print this downloadable response form and drop it off at the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society office in Prince Rupert, or mail your comments to us (mailing addresses are included in the downloadable form).

Email us

You can provide comments to us by email at nc-feedback@mappocean.org.

How feedback will be used

The North Coast planning team, composed of co-leads from the North Coast-Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society and the Province of British Columbia, will review all the input received as part of the consultation process and make changes to the plan where appropriate. The comments received from public and stakeholders will be documented, and a summary of the main themes prepared.


#BoldAction: The Moral Call for Climate Justice Tuesday, June 10th. 7-9pm

Tuesday, June 10th. 7-9pm.
Christ Church Cathedral,  690 Burrard Street
Coast Salish Territories, Vancouver

On Facebook at: www.facebook.com/events/1397855707163546

Tickets (free and by donation) at: boldaction.eventbrite.ca


Reverend Lennox Yearwood gets that climate change and poverty, race and culture, democracy and corporate power, are all connected. He knows that it is a moral challenge, and he preaches the need for bold action. The Rev is a minister and community activist, and President of the Hip Hop Caucus, a national non-profit that empowers young people to participate in elections, policymaking, and systemic change. He has been an influential voice for the moral call to climate action in the United States, speaking against the Keystone XL pipeline, and in favour of green economy alternatives that create good jobs and a clean environment for future generations.

Sean Devlin is a comedian, filmmaker, activist and Executive Director of SHD. He has been performing standup comedy since he was a teenager and has been active in the climate justice movement for 4 years. He is a direct action trainer and a thought stylist at the Yes Men’s Yes Lab for creative activism.

Heather Milton-Lightening has over sixteen years of organizing experience from local issues to international campaigns. Heather was a founding member of Native Youth Movement that empowered youth politically and socially to make change in their communities, and then went on to found and build a national Native youth network that supported Native youth organizing across the US and Canada with the Indigenous Environmental Network. Heather currently is working on a contractual basis with many different organizations doing trainings, facilitating and support work for Native communities.


Memorial Day 2050 – New York Times Op-Ed by Thomas L. Friedman

OF the many things being said about climate change lately, none was more eloquent than the point made by Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State in the Showtime series “Years of Living Dangerously,” when he observed: “We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”

The question is how do we motivate people to do something about it at the scale required, when many remain skeptical or preoccupied with the demands of daily life — and when climate scientists themselves caution that it is impossible to attribute any single weather event to climate change, even if recent weather extremes fit their models of exactly how things will play out as the planet warms.

Andrew Sullivan’s Dish blog last week linked to a very novel approach offered by Thomas Wells, a Dutch philosopher: Since climate change and environmental degradation pit the present against the future, our generation versus those unborn, we should start by giving the future a voice in our present politics.

Wells suggests creating a public “trusteeship” of nongovernmental civic and charitable foundations, environmental groups and nonpartisan think tanks “and give them each equal shares of a block of votes adding up to, say, 10 percent of the electorate,” so they can represent issues like “de-carbonizing the economy” and “guaranteeing pension entitlements” for the unborn generation that will be deeply impacted but has no vote.

Read the full article here.


Athabasca Glacier could disappear within generation, says manager

Screenshot 2014-05-26 10.17.03

Tourists walk on the Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, on May 7, 2014. The park’s manager says the glacier could disappear within one generation. (The Canadian Press/Jess McIntosh).

What’s believed to be the most-visited glacier in North America is losing more than five metres of ice every year and is in danger of completely disappearing within a generation, says a Parks Canada manager.

The Athabasca Glacier is the largest of six ice sheets that form part of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park. It is a popular destination for tourists from around the world who climb aboard huge snow coaches to get an up-close look.

While it receives about seven metres of snowfall annually, the glacier has been slowly shrinking for about 150 years.

“It’s astonishing,” John Wilmshurst, Jasper National Park’s resource conservation manager, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“Every year we drive stakes five metres deep into the glacier in the fall. We have to return and re-drill them in mid-summer because a lot of those stakes on the Athabasca Glacier, the one that a lot of people go visit, will be lying flat on the ice at that time.

“We’re losing at least five metres a year on the surface of that glacier.”

Bob Sandford, chairman of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade, said it’s “mind boggling” because not only is the glacier receding — it’s also becoming more shallow.

Read the full article here.




Momentum for Change: Now accepting applications for the 2014 Lighthouse Activities – Deadline extended to 27 May at 18:00 CET!

The search for the 2014 Lighthouse Activities is on! Applications are being accepted from 31 March to 27 May.

Lighthouse Activities shine a light on the most practical, scalable and replicable examples of what people around the world are doing to tackle climate change.

If you’re leading a small, entrepreneurial project or if you’re part of a large initiative that is transforming cities, governments and businesses, we want to hear from you!

Learn more about the benefits of being named a Lighthouse Activity and apply today!

Momentum for Change is an initiative spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat to shine a light on the enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future. Momentum for Change looks for innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.

Momentum for Change’s Lighthouse Activities highlight some of the most practical, scalable and replicable examples of what people, businesses, governments and industries are doing to tackle climate change.


5th International Disaster and Risk Confernce IDRC Davos 24-28 August 2014

GRFACT is an endorsing partner for IDRC Davos 2014, where over 1000 participants will gather including risk management experts, practitioners, scientists, key players from civil society, Non-Governmental Organisations and the private sector. The diversity of participants enables both a strategic and operational level of discussion to ensure “the last mile” will be considered with key players from line ministries and disaster and risk management authorities.

Registration for the 5th IDRC Davos 2014 is open! Benefit now of reduced fees and register today online!

The IDRC Davos 2014 is the world biggest gatherings for integrative disaster risk management you don’t want to miss!

Visit the website for details.





Rising Waters Are Spawning a New Breed of Cyborg Architecture

Screenshot 2014-05-23 15.30.06

Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, a masterpiece on the banks of the Fox River, has been hit by three different “100-year-floods” in the last 20 years. Now, preservationists are considering putting the home on permanent hydraulic jacks to lift it above floodwaters. The Farnsworth House would become a cyborg building—and it’s far from the only one.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, architecture critic Blair Kamin describes how the home’s owner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is considering several ways to save the Farnsworth House. Mies, when he designed the home in the late 1940s, foresaw the flooding issue—that’s why he lifted the building up on steel columns that make it seem to “float” over the landscape. But that landscape is changing: The floods are coming more and more often, and the fragile building can’t withstand many more.

The simplest option: The building could be moved to higher ground. The problem there? Many historians argue it would defeat the careful siting of the structure around the wooded glen it sits inside. What about building up its foundation so it’s a bit higher above the floods? The same issue applies—and it’s very expensive, at $2.9 million. The third idea, and by far the most remarkable, would only cost a smidgen more.

Read the full article here.



The Sea Level Rise Adaptation Primer is a resource for coastal management authorities (mainly local governments) to help them identify and evaluate options for adapting to the impacts of sea level rise and associated hazards. The Primer is intended to be relevant for southern coastal regions across Canada with application to British Columbia, Quebec, and the Atlantic region.

Additional resources provided by the BC Ministry of Environment include:




Coquitlam extends setbacks in climate change preparation

Screenshot 2014-05-22 12.44.06

Beedie’s Waterfront Village Centre  |  Beedie Living

Coquitlam, one of the three Canadian cities involved in an insurance-industry backed pilot program to access threats of climate change, has ruled that new developments on the Fraser River must be set further and higher back from the water.

The policy change will require the Waterfront Village Centre, a 36-hectare development planned by Beedie Development on the former Fraser Mills site, to be built up about one meter higher than previous municipal standards. This would increase the foundation height to about 4.5 metres (or 14.5 feet.)

The development will also be set back sufficiently from the river to allow a dike to be built in the event of an historic flood, according to Dan Soong, manager of utility programs for the City of Coquitlam.

Read the full article here.





Should we try to fight rising sea levels — or abandon the coasts?

Screenshot 2014-05-22 12.21.21Cape Cod, Truro, Massachusetts. John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

The world’s sea levels are expected to rise 1 to 3 feet — or more — as the planet heats up in the coming century. The more greenhouse gases we emit, the bigger the rise, but we’ve already locked in at least some sea-level increase no matter what.

So what should the millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas do?

Broadly speaking, there are three ways to deal with sea-level rise. First, large coastal cities like New York or Boston or Tokyo will likely spend billions to erect dikes and other defenses to fend off the rising oceans. Second, some coastal infrastructure will have to be elevated.

But there’s a third option that rarely gets as much attention — retreat. In many areas, it may make more sense for residents and communities to flee inland rather than fight the rising seas.

In a recent paper in Climatic Change, Carolyn Kousky argues that there are inevitably going to be parts of the United States where dikes and artificial defenses against sea-level rise probably shouldn’t be built. Often, the barriers just won’t be worth the cost. In other regions, seawalls might create more problems than they solve — by, for instance, increasing coastal erosion or by destroying crucial wetlands.

For these areas, Kousky argues, “managed retreat” is probably the best option. But coastal communities will need to start planning ahead of time. In some places, that may mean restricting development in high-risk areas or not subsidizing reconstruction after hurricanes and other disasters. But there aren’t any easy policy options here — and in many places, the process could get messy and controversial.

Access the full article here.

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