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Report Highlights the Effects of Climate Change on the BC Real Estate Industry

The David Suzuki Foundation and the Real Estate Institute of British Columbia have released a new report, Hot Properties: How Global Warming Could Transform BC’s Real Estate Sector.

“The energy we use to build our cities, the energy we use to heat and power our cities and the energy we use to transport ourselves and our goods from A to B accounts for roughly one-third of B.C.’s total omissions“ ~Nicholas Heap, author of the report

Citing house floods in Tsawwassen, wildfires in residential Kelowna and landslides on the North Shore and in Mission, Heap said his research leads him to believe many buildings and outlying infrastructure throughout the province are at risk.

“It is now becoming clear to the general public, government, building sector professionals, and insurers that the effects of climate change will require significant changes to current practice.”

~Nicholas Heap

According to Real Estate Institute president Scott Ullrich, the findings weren’t that surprising.

“We’ve been concerned about the issue of sustainability for some time and climate change, as we are all starting to realize, will force real estate professionals to find innovative ways to reduce green house emissions,”

~Scott Ullrich

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New Report Highlights the Risks of Climate Change to Children

A new paper produced by the International Institute for Environment and Development highlights the probable impacts for children of different ages from the increasing risk of storms, flooding, landslides, heat waves, drought and water supply constraints that climate change is likely to bring to most urban centres in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The report entitled Climate Change and Urban Children: Impacts and Implications for Adaptation also explores adaptation, focusing on preparedness as well as responses to extreme events and to changes in weather patterns. The report states that if adaptations to climate change fail to take account of the disproportionate risks for children (who make up between a third and a half of the population in the most affected areas) they will be less than adequate in responding to the challenges.

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Community Vulnerability Assessment of Taber, Alberta

The Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative recently completed their study of the community of Taber, Alberta.The Institutional Adaptations to Climate Change SSHRC MCRI Project – Report on Community Vulnerability Assessment of Taber, Alberta report presents findings for one of the objectives of the Institutional Adaptation to Climate Change project.

It examines the characteristics (location, history, economic forces and population) of the community of Taber, Alberta and discusses the results of their vulnerability assessment.

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New Report Aims at Helping Home Owners Adapt to Climate Change

A new report, Your Home in a Changing Climate: Retrofitting Existing Homes for Climate Change Impacts, produced by the Three Regions Climate Change Group composed of the Climate Change Steering Group East of England Sustainable Development Roundtable, the South East Climate Change Partnership, and the London Climate Change Partnership, informs and promotes the adaptation of the existing residential building stock for a future climate. It covers dwellings from private individuals to housing associations with an emphasis on water conservation, drainage, flood risk and ventilation. The report shows that there are practical and affordable measures to achieve substantial adaptation.

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Youth Travels the World to Collect Stories of Adaptation

24 year old Juan Hoffmaister set off in July 2007, with support from the Watson Foundation, to gather success stories of adaptation throughout the developing world.Now 10 months into his year-long exploration he says he has instead been gathering “survival stories”.

His project has or will take him to Fiji, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Maldives, and Namibia to learn about adaptation to climate change.His trip will conclude in August 2008 when he will compile the results of his exploration into a report to be presented to the UNFCCC in Germany.To learn more about his travels visit his blog site, Changing Climates: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable.

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New Report Makes Recommendations Dealing with Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change

A new study, Indigenous and Traditional Peoples and Climate Change, produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature seeks to better understand the potential impacts of climate change on the livelihoods and cultures of indigenous and traditional communities. It goes on to developing related recommendations, including: formulate policies that actively involve indigenous and traditional communities in the international, regional and local climate change discourse; recognize and actively promote indigenous adaptation strategies; and monitor the implications of mitigation efforts including the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reduced Emissions from Deforestation in Developing countries (REDD) on indigenous and traditional peoples.

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Wildlife Highway Designed to Help Animals Adapt to Climate Change

The Severn Vale Living Landscape project ambitious £500,000 five-year project is aimed at ensuring creatures such as the otter, water vole and wading birds can survive in a changing environment.The project will be developed at the Severn Vale in Gloucestershire, UK, one of the country’s most important wetland sites and a priority area for conservation.

The ambitious scheme by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, will take shape within the floodplain of the River Severn, extending from Berkeley in the south to beyond Tewkesbury approximately 30 miles north east.At its widest between Stonehouse and Rodley, it will be up to 10 miles across. It will run along both sides of the River Severn, thinner in the north and wider in the south as the river nears the estuary.

The main aim of the project is to join up wetland habitats in the Severn Vale that have become fragmented as land use has changed, leaving wildlife stranded and unable to move north as temperatures rise.Planners have been working closely with local landowners and farmers to create new habitat areas which will allow the animals to make the move northwards while at the same time ensuring the land remains suitable for agriculture.

New wetlands can be created often by simple changes in farming practice such as managing the number of grazing livestock differently at certain times of the year to create less uniform pasture, and keeping ground water levels just below the surface during drier months so the soil remains soft enough for breeding waders to find food.Project officers will also be consulting with landowners about the timing of hay cuts, harrowing, grassland rolling and ditch maintenance, all of which are crucial to creating habitats suitable for wetland species.

Although the target habitat is lowland wet grassland, the project also aims to restore and recreate areas of other habitats such as fen and marsh, reed-bed, wet woodland, unimproved neutral grassland and salt-marsh which together will form the habitats needed by a whole variety of wildlife.

“If wildlife can’t move it won’t be able to adapt to climate changes that are already happening, so species will stop breeding and eventually, over time, disappear from ever larger areas of the countryside.The Severn Vale is the ideal place to establish our first wildlife highway. It’s rich in wildlife and the course of the river provides a natural route north east from the Bristol Channel up into the Midlands and beyond.”

~Dr. Gordon McGlone; Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

A comprehensive nature map drawn up by the Gloucestershire Biodiversity Partnership, has enabled the Trust to identify 22 strategic nature areas where it can create target wetland habitats in the Severn Vale. Linking up just 12 will establish the desired ‘wildlife highway’ route north.

“Basically, we’re having to adopt a completely new way of thinking about conservation. The old stamp collecting approach of establishing nature reserves just won’t work in the face of climate change.Wildlife that’s happily lived on our reserves for 40 years won’t survive the next 40 years unless we start linking up habitats so it can move and adapt,”

~ Gordon McGlone.

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The Prairie Provinces Will Need to Deal with Drought

Greg Marchildon, Director of the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy (SIPP), delivered the message that while efforts to reduce greenhouse gases can mitigate climate change, the future of the Prairie provinces will depend on our ability as societies to proactively adapt to climate change, to delegates of SIPP’s Symposium on Climate Change this week.The Symposium delegates discussed public policy in terms of adaptation to global warming, climate change and the scarcity of water resources.

“The semi-arid Palliser Triangle (southern Saskatchewan and Alberta) is the second-most vulnerable environment in Canada.The area’s vulnerability has less to do with the rise in temperature than the impact climate change and rising temperatures will have on water.The single-biggest risk for the Canadian prairies is drought, significant and prolonged drought.”

~Greg Marchildon

In 2006, warmer-than-average temperatures were recorded across the world for the 30th consecutive year, a new Statistics Canada report “Human Activity and the Environment: Annual Statistics 2007 and 2008” noted. The report went on to say one of the greatest concerns associated with climate change is the anticipated increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.

Darrell Corkal, a water quality engineer with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, said the prairies can learn from the past.

“When we take a look and hear about water scarcity, the biggest issue for us in the region is understanding that we live with a variable water supply — we have sometimes too much and oftentimes not enough.Repeated droughts in the past are expected to occur in the future whether or not we believe in climate change and if climate change is superimposed upon the historical record it makes the situation potentially worse.If you accept those scenarios then we need to find ways of dealing with those increased vulnerabilities.Those vulnerabilities are going to force us as a society to make water management decisions as well as adaptations not only at a local level but adaptations institutionally as well as provincially and federally.We can’t be complacent about water and climate.Our major drought in 2001-02 was a two-year duration drought but it was more extensive than the drought of 1931 because it affected more of the country. While the most severely hit areas were the Prairie provinces, the 2001-02 drought had a huge economic impact — something like a $6-billion loss in gross domestic product across the country.It had an economic impact but it did not devastate the land environmentally or ecologically like the sustained droughts did in the 1920s which lasted in multiple years.”

~Darrell Corkal

Corkal questions whether the prairies are equipped to deal with the challenges if hit by a repeated drought that could last six to 10 years.

“Our soil conservation techniques and our seeding practices are all helping us cope right now with short-term droughts and our water-management facilities (irrigation) are helping us deal with that as well.But if we ever get hit with a multi-year drought are we ready to deal with that? That is definitely a challenge.Increased water demands by different portions of society whether urban versus industrial demands or different sectors of industry, including agricultural demands, are inevitably going to force society into decisions of making wiser choices of how water is managed and shared.There has to be proactive planning and policies by governments that take into consideration those competing interests and the management and sharing of water in the Palliser Triangle.”

~Darrell Corkal

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New Report Highlights the Business Case for Adaptation

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has just released a new report “Adapting to Climate Change: A Business Approach”.The report was authored by Frances J. Sussman, Senior Economist with ICF International, and J. Randall Freed, Senior Vice President of ICF International.

The report highlights that although many businesses are taking some climate change impacts into account – such as potential federal and state regulations, shareholder perceptions, and changes in consumer and producer markets – many are not incorporating the physical effects of climate change into their business planning.

This report outlines a business approach to analyzing and adapting to the physical risk of climate change.It focuses on a critical first step in assessing these climate impacts: understanding the potential risks to business and the importance of taking action to mitigate those risks. It recognizes that not all businesses need to take action now and therefore develops a qualitative screening process to assess whether a business is likely to be vulnerable to the physical risks associated with climate change, and whether a more detailed risk assessment is warranted.

The report goes on to highlight three business case studies of companies that have begun to look at adaptation to climate change.These case studies highlight the very different circumstances that motivated each company, and how the companies may be moving towards different conclusions about the appropriate response to changing climate.The companies highlighted are: Entergy Corporation, The Travelers Companies, and Rio Tinto.

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AIACC Program Aims to Help Developing Countries with Adaptation

The Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change (AIACC) program is a global initiative developed in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the United Nations Environment Programme/World Meteorological Organization and is funded by the Global Environment Facility.

By funding collaborative research, training and technical support, AIACC aims to enhance the scientific capacity of developing countries to assess climate change vulnerabilities and adaptations, and generate and communicate information useful for adaptation planning and action.

AIACC is implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme and executed jointly by the global change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training (START) and the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). In addition to the funding from the Global Environmental Facility, collateral funding has been provided by the United States Agency for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Bank.

AIACC has completed regional assessments throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Small Island States. Lessons gained around the issue of vulnerability from these assessments include: the urgency of climate change risks, the role of social and governance systems in dampening or amplifying vulnerability, impediments to development from water scarcity, worsening land degradation, threats to rural poor, vulnerabilities in coasts and small islands, risks to ecosystems and species, and human health risks.

Their regional assessments similarly highlight a series of adaptation lessons including: adapt now, adaptation is development, adaptation is for ourselves, international financial help is necessary, strengthen institutions, involve those at risk, expand information and awareness, and adaptation is place-based.

The draft final report of the AIACC project “Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation in Developing Country Regions” has been released.The $9 million, 5 year report covers 24 case studies of adaptation in developing nations.Some of the case studies include: adaptations to climate change that are working successfully for farmers in the Sudan and China, flood-prone cities in Argentina and Uruguay, and Caribbean islands at risk of dengue fever.

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Climate Scientist Speaks to the Need for Adaptation

Dr. Paul Kovacs, Executive Director for the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, speaking to the Toronto Star from the Climate Change Adaptation summit hosted by the Ontario Government recently spoke of the need for adaptation.

“All of the good things that we are trying to do with respect to reducing our emissions will matter going down the road 100 years, 150 or 200 years, but if you want to do anything that reduces the adverse impact of climate change in the next 50 years … it’s adapting,”
~ Dr. Paul Kovacs

To read the full article, please click here.

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Review of “Adaptation to Climate Change: Where do we go from Bali?”

Review of article by Sven Harmeling published in Tiempo Climate Newswatch, March 2008.

In this commentary, Sven Harmeling of Germanwatch proposes a number of ways to move discussions forward on adaptation issues following the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali in December 2007. He considers the role that the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWGLCA) could play. The AWGLCA is holding its first meeting from 31 March – 4 April 2008, in Bangkok, Thailand, in parallel with the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol.

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Adaptation and Mitigation Must Join Forces

Living in British Columbia provides many stark examples of the impacts of climate change. Impacts ranging from the retreat of glaciers throughout the Coast Mountains to the devastating impact of the pine beetle in huge swaths of our forests speak to an ever-more-urgent need to address climate change.Traditionally, efforts surrounding climate change have taken one of two approaches: adaptation or mitigation.

Adaptation attempts to lessen civilization’s vulnerabilities to currently occurring and future un-preventable climate change.Mitigation attempts to reduce the negative impacts of climate change by reducing production of greenhouse gases.In the past these two focuses have worked in parallel tracts with little overlap between the majority of practitioners.More recently, recognition has begun to emerge of the importance of employing these two strategies in concert.

Dr. Stewart Cohen, Researcher for the Adaptation and Impacts Research Division of Environment Canada and Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES), is leading an effort with fellow IRES professor, John Robinson, to link climate change adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development.

The Land Trust Alliance of BC has recently released their report “Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change through the Conservation of Nature” authored by Sara J. Wilson and Richard J. Hebda.Sara is a leading Canadian researcher on Ecological Economics, which is an emerging field that values nature’s services. Richard is the Curator of Botany and Earth History Royal BC Museum, and an adjunct associate professor, Biology, Schools of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria.The findings of their report state that the immense stores of carbon in existing ecosystems are of great importance for both mitigation and adaptation to climate change, especially compared to the potential of removing atmospheric carbon by planting new forests. Specifically they focus on four points.First that carbon storage in young forests takes a long time, especially in terms of replacing lost carbon. Second that because there is so little time to slow global warming, the priority should be on preventing carbon losses and conserving the carbon stores that exist. Third that by protecting existing ecosystems there will be a wide range of habitat to provide connecting corridors for plant and animal migration as the climate warms. Finally that the protection of intact ecosystems provides resiliency for ecosystems and the communities that depend upon them.

The municipality of Delta, British Columbia has intimately linked climate change adaptation and mitigation in their Climate Change Initiative.The two main goals of their program are: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings, fleet vehicles and operations; and to adapt municipal infrastructure and emergency plans to ensure their community is well prepared for and protected against climate change impacts.

These initiatives highlight the evolving thinking surrounding climate change mitigation and adaptation, and their relationship and importance to each other.We have reached a period when truly successful climate change programs will fully consider, value and address both adaptation and mitigation and when neither adaptation nor mitigation programs considered alone will be as effective as a joint program.

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ACT’s First Conference – Communities in Jeopardy: Plant, Animal and Human – a Success

On March 31st and April 1st ACT brought together a wide range of expertise from the fields of biodiversity and rural resource-dependent communities to provide input and feedback on the development of policy recommendations in these areas with respect to climate change adaptation in British Columbia.The results of these meetings will be used by the ACT research team, lead by Jon O’Riordan, former Deputy Minister of Sustainable Resource Management for the BC Provincial Government and Adjunct Professor of the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia, to inform their policy recommendations surrounding communities in jeopardy, due out in approximately three months time.

The conference opened with presentations from Jim Snetsinger, Chief Forester for the Forest Stewardship Division, BC Ministry of Forests, who spoke on current adaptation challenges and responses in BC forests, and Lara Whitely-Binder, an outreach specialist at the Climate Impacts Group of the University of Washington, who presented on current and projected climate change impacts in the Pacific Northwest.Following these presentations, participants broke-out into groups to discuss what they saw as the major climate change adaptation issues in their various areas or sectors.

Highlights from the afternoon included presentations by Trevor Murdock, Associate Professor with the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria, about the Report to the Province on Biodiversity – local impact models; by Tory Stevens, Protected Areas Ecologist with the Parks and Protected Areas Branch of the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, on the Report to the Province on Biodiversity – species impacts; and by Robin Sydneysmith, lead author of the BC Chapter of the NRCAN 2007 National Assessment on Impacts and Adaptation, who gave an overview of the BC portion of the federal assessment report.

A public dialogue took place Monday evening in a town hall style that saw a diverse range of experts share short vignettes about climate change adaptation and communities in jeopardy, and then engage with the audience through question and answer, with questions originating both from the expert’s panel and the audience.The expert’s panel was composed of: Donna Barton, Mayor of 100 Mile House and Chair of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition; Stewart Cohen, Researcher for the Adaptation and Impacts Research Division of Environment Canada and Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability; Dawn Morrison, Coordinator of the Indigenous People’s Food Network; Jon O’Riordan; and Gary Zorn, Proprietor of Eco-Tours BC.

The second day of the conference saw presentations by Kindy Gosal, of the Columbia Basin Trust, who spoke on community adaptation to climate change impacts in the Columbia Basin; Michael Dunn, of the Land Trust Alliance BC, who spoke on adaptation and mitigation through conservation of nature; and Donna Barton, who highlighted municipal policy challenges and achievements developed during the district’s efforts to adapt to the pine beetle infestation.Participants focused their discussions during the day around the viable policy alternatives that could be used to address the various challenges highlighted throughout the two-day workshop.The ACT research team will now work with these recommendations.Please check back here for updates of their progress.

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Welcome to the ACT Blog

ACT (Adaptation to Climate Change Team) is a non-profit policy planning initiative that is designed to develop timely options for sustainable adaptation to climate change impacts.

In order to do this we are convening national stakeholder and researcher sessions around 9 key themes (Communities in Jeopardy, Extreme Weather Events and Natural Hazards, Fresh Water Supply, Energy Production, Food Adaptation, Population Displacement, Health Risks, New Technologies, and Sea Level Rise) and producing policy documents targeting governments and decision-makers based upon these sessions’ recommendations and the research of our research assistants.

We have designed the ACT Blog to act as an adaptation information centre, providing relevant, accurate and timely information and news around climate change adaptation.We hope you make use of these resources and welcome your comments, suggestions for posts and contributions. Enjoy!

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