The realities of climate change might still be up for debate on Fox News and the pages of Facebook’s older users. But serious organizations that stand to see their profits affected by humans’ unchecked release of carbon emissions—insurance companies and energy conglomerates, for example—have already initiated business strategies to adapt to our transforming planet.
The City of Vancouver transitioned from climate-change prevention to adaptation several years ago. It began planning for climate change’s disruptive effects in 2012, when council approved the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and began tightening flood-protection requirements, enhancing shoreline defence, and planting trees that will help keep urban areas cool.
On Wednesday (December 5), the city’s new council led by independent mayor Kennedy Stewart is scheduled to receive an update on the previous Vision Vancouver administration’s climate-change adaptation efforts.
The city has completed 75 percent of actionable items recommended in the 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, according to the document. The 2018 update included there says Vancouver will now focus on climate-robust infrastructure, resilient buildings, and coastline preparedness, among other areas.
Staff also recommend the city place greater emphasis on the “effect on health and well-being from poor air quality events linked to wildfire smoke”.
The City of Vancouver refused to grant an interview on the report, explaining it will no longer make staff available for interviews before such documents are received by council.
Alongside recommendations for future actions, the report describes a challenging situation, not as something still many years away, but as one with which the city is grappling with today.
“We are already experiencing the consequences of 1°C of warming through more extreme weather, sea level rise, decreasing artic sea ice and other changes,” it reads. “Proactively planning for shocks and stresses related to a changing climate enables us to take advantage of co-benefits and windows of opportunity versus more costly post-event reactions.”
The report notes the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that “extreme weather events” cost insurance companies an average of $1.8 billion per year from 2009 and 2017 compared to an average of $405 million per year from 1983 and 2008.
It also includes revised warnings based on the United Nations' latest climate-change models. The city notes these models include “exacerbated anticipated changes,” meaning climate change is now expected to cause even more severe disruptions than previously understood.
“By 2050, hot days become 4°C hotter and heat waves happen more frequently. Cooling requirements for buildings in the summer will increase fourfold by 2050,” the report reads.
“By 2050, extreme rainfall events are expected to become increasingly common and intense with 33% more rain on very wet days and 63% more rain on extremely wet days,” it continues. “The coldest winter nights will become almost 5 degrees warmer. For our region’s water supply watersheds the April 1st snowpack is projected to decrease by 58%, meaning less water in our reservoirs.”
At the provincial level, B.C. premier John Horgan recently warned that massive forest fires that burn longer than was once typical may have already become typical for the region.
"We're concerned, all of us, that this may be the new normal," he told reporters last August.
Measured by hectares burned, the 2018 and 2017 wildfire seasons were two of the very worst B.C. has ever recorded.