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Climate change study finds sunny reception on council

From the Whitehorse Star, by Max Leighton, November 24, 2011

John Striecker

City council unanimously passed the WhiteCAP project, a study into the effects of local climate change, at its regular meeting on Nov. 14.

“I think it’s great news,” said John Striecker, a professional engineer at Yukon College and president of the Green Party of Canada.

“We ran this as a community-based pilot project, and the City of Whitehorse is beginning to see the value in it and will see what projects they can use it for.”

The $200,000 project was drafted by the Northern Climate ExChange at the Yukon Research Centre.

Participating were the City of Whitehorse, the Yukon government, the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Yukon Conservation Society. Funding came from the Canada Northern Strategy Trust.

“Overall, it’s a step toward making the city more resilient and more sustainable and those are good moves overall. The report is just based on good, solid thinking,” said Striecker.

He hopes the City of Whitehorse will use WhiteCAP and other climate change research to phase information about climate change into future city planning and decision-making.

“I think the city are going to look to the smart money decisions initially,” said Striecker.

“When it comes to replacing infrastructure, emergency preparedness, land planning, they’ll need to integrate this knowledge and think long-term.”

The report states that the local climate has warmed by about two degrees C over the last 50 years.

A precipitation increase of between 14 and 22 per cent by 2050 is predicted, as well as increased variability, which could lead to flooding and a higher risk of forest fires.

The report also points out some positive qualities of climate change in the community, including an expanded growing season as well as increases in tourism to the area, said Striecker.

Some changes to language have been made since the project was first introduced to city council last August.

The report no longer makes reference to “frost-free days,” instead emphasizing a general warming of the local climate.

That will bring a higher number of days of above-freezing temperatures and a slowly warming climate.

 

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