A special information feature in the Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Globe And Mail includes an article featuring ACT and Deborah Harford speaking on the issues of adaptation to climate change and the economy.  (PDF) See page CFA 1

Persistent warming putting heat on adaptation strategy development

On the basis of widespread evidence of accelerating climate change, organizations are looking more closely at how their operations and stakeholders will be affected.

ACT, the Adaptation to Climate Change Team at Simon Fraser University, brings leading experts from around the world together with industry, community and government decision-makers to generate policy recommendations and resources designed to assist in sustainable adaptation. In their efforts to address the primary issues of climate change adaptation, ACT has partnered with Zurich Financial Services, one of the world’s pre-eminent insurers, as well as organizations such as Hydro, AMEC (a renowned engineering consultancy) and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

“Climate change impacts extend to health and fresh water supply, energy production, crops and food, sea level rise – even to potential population displacement within Canada and outside our borders,” says Deborah Harford, executive director. “Many industries are already feeling that impact – for example, it’s costing the insurance industry an enormous amount of money. In 2010 alone, the worldwide economic loss from natural disasters was $150 billion.”

As a result, insurers are taking action to encourage organizations and governments to help mitigate and adapt to climate change and the subsequent cost burdens, she says. “For example, they are urging municipal governments to consider appropriate zoning and building standards, and urging all governments to acknowledge the fact that they have a critical role to play.”

The agriculture industry is another that has been significantly affected by climate change and is responding with adaptation efforts, says Ms. Harford. “The prairie drought in 2005 cost Canada’s economy about $5 billion. Seed producers and growers are therefore looking at shifting to new crops that will be resilient to extreme heat, and developing crops that can grow in drier conditions.”

In the engineering sector, Engineers Canada undertook a cross-country study that revealed that, as infrastructure standards today are based on historical data rather than future climate projections, vulnerability is being built into new infrastructure, she says. “Engineers are therefore looking at ways they can help to raise awareness and reduce vulnerability in construction projects.”

Many organizations are also looking at ways they can leverage the opportunities that stem from a lower carbon economy. “The EPIC Vancouver Sun Sustainable Living Expo features products and services that are smart and stylish, but that are Earth-friendlier than their competitors,” says Nancy Wright, vice-president, Marketing, for the Globe Foundation, EPIC’s creator. “For 20 years, our mandate has been facilitating the business of the environment. We have always believed that business will ultimately solve environmental challenges because by doing so, they’ll do better economically.”

Over the five years since the first EPIC show was launched, the green economy has grown significantly, she says. “There are a lot more companies offering products and services that fit our criteria, and a lot more people incorporating sustainability into their lifestyles.”

One of the leaders in that shift is Walmart, an EPIC participant, she says. “They have transformed they way they do business in so many respects, and a company that size has so much market power they can push change down their supply chain. That’s when you really start to see change: when suppliers start manufacturing, packaging and transporting more sustainably.”