It is time for the general public to make sure government is planning for climate change, says David Phillips, climatologist with Environment Canada.
He was on P.E.I. this week as a keynote speaker at the Atlantic Canada Water & Wastewater Association 2012 annual conference underway at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown.
As an example, he said subdivision permits should now require planning for extreme rains and wind when issuing permits for sewer and water drainage.
The same can be said for new schools and hospitals, said Phillips. Can they stand up to tornado-force winds even here in Atlantic Canada, is a question that needs to be asked.
There may be disagreement about the cause of global warming but everyone agrees it’s happening, said Phillips.
“The insurance industry is absolutely convinced that what they are seeing is the result of climate change. Since 2000 they are paying out gobs of money because of severe weather and flooding issues. It is something that we have to convince at all levels, municipal, provincial, and federal governments that we have to invest in our infrastructure.
“It’s a responsibility of government to protect us from ourselves and to prepare us for the future,” said Phillips. “If the future is going to be warmer, wetter and wilder, than we need to be forward thinking about this.”
He uses the Confederation Bridge as an example, saying that it was designed one metre higher than was necessary at the time in the centre span to account for rising sea levels. “Just factor climate change in, as cost of infrastructure,” said Phillips.
“I’m hopeful about the future. Climate change is not the bogeyman people think it is.”
The problem is simply one of planning for more frequent extreme weather events.
“We build hospitals and design schools based on normal weather but the weather is no longer normal,” said Phillips. “We are getting these wild cards. That is where we should be concerned as Canadians and why we have to invest in climate change.
“Our motivation for doing something is not based on what we see,” said Phillips. “It’s based on what we are likely to see.
“It’s going to get more challenging before it gets easier. We need to look at it seriously and invest in it more.
“Let’s not be caught unawares,” said Phillips.