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Saturday, Jul 06, 2019

Edmonton’s climate change vulnerability and risk assessment sets the stage for Climate Change Adaptation Plan

Edmonton Climate Change Adaptation Plan

Extreme dry weather simulation in Edmonton's River Valley

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, along with numerous studies from across Canada, provide evidence that climate change is unequivocal, already resulting in a range of risks to communities.    

Communities around the world are experiencing the effects of climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme weather conditions, such as rainstorms, snowstorms, heat waves, droughts, and unseasonal temperature and precipitation. Climate change impacts water resources, hydrology, ecology, agriculture, infrastructure, public health and safety, the economy, and society in general, and is posing significant challenges. 

The City of Edmonton, Alberta, is taking a proactive approach to be prepare for and respond to climate change impacts. The City’s strategic direction on climate adaptation was first documented in Edmonton’s Environmental Strategic Plan, The Way We Green, approved by City Council in 2011. The document includes goals, objectives, and strategic actions to deal with climate change impacts. The development and implementation of a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Edmonton will take place in three stages.

Edmonton Climate Change Adaptation Plan

Simulation of extreme wet weather in the spring

The first stage of Edmonton’s Adaptation Plan is a Climate Change Vulnerability and Risk Assessment. The City retained Associated Engineering to lead this project, with support from Risk Science International, All One Sky, and Alberta Water Smart. The goal of the project is to provide a comprehensive evidential basis on plausible climate change scenarios, vulnerabilities and risks. 

“The project involved a review of the City’s assets and services, including buildings, drainage, drinking water, wastewater, waste management, roads, active transportation, air, electricity, fuel  supply, information and communication, health, emergency management, and the economy. These assets and services were assessed for their vulnerability and the risk due to climate change, considering the geography, population, sectors, and activities within the city. The project supports the development of a robust adaptation and resilience strategy.”

- Project Manager, Tonderai Chakanyuka

Edmonton Climate Change Adaptation Plan

Simulation of extreme wet weather in the fall season

Climate scenarios and potential climate hazards were reviewed for years 2050 and 2080. Seventeen climate hazards, such as flooding, heat waves, wildfires, snow storms, extreme cold, lightning, and drought, were identified as extreme or sudden-onset impacts. 

“The assessment framework examined three impact pathways, including direct physical  damage; indirect service loss resulting indirectly from damage to the assets; and direct service loss resulting directly from exposure of a service to the climate hazard.”

- Sustainable Design Specialist, Juliana Tang

Out of the impacts and service loss assessment, environmental, social, and economic consequence and likelihood are quantified and scored with input from the City of Edmonton, Government of Alberta, EPCOR, and various other associations, organizations, and individuals.

Edmonton Climate Change Adaptation Plan

Downtown Edmonton in a simulated deep cold

To overcome the challenges of uncertainties with climate models and consequences, the team provided explanations of potential impacts and risks on assets for the stakeholders. The results of the assessment provide a priority list for future adaptation and mitigation strategies.