Saturday, August 2, 2008

Canadian infrastructure at risk from climate change, engineering panel warns

The Calgary Herald, Canwest News Service (Canada): Climate change is making Canadian roads, water supplies, sewer systems and government buildings more vulnerable to multibillion-dollar failures that place human health and safety at risk, warns a new national engineering assessment uncovered by the Vancouver Sun. The study, Adapting to Climate Change, is the first national engineering vulnerability assessment in Canada and comes on the heels of other government reports about the impacts of global warming and potential health implications.

"The diversity and range of infrastructures that may be vulnerable to climate change is enormous," said the report, co-sponsored by a national association of engineers and the federal Natural Resources Department.

The report warned many existing infrastructure facilities in categories such as water resources, buildings, roads and bridges were built using "now-outdated assumptions" that "may not have sufficient resiliency" to the anticipated impacts of global warming, such as rising temperatures or the increased frequency of extreme weather events.

It also noted that historic weather statistics can no longer be used for infrastructure design and operation decisions, since climate scientists are now observing and predicting increases in average air and ocean temperatures, as well as "widespread melting of snow and ice, and a rising global average sea level."

"Added demands arising from changing climatic conditions could mean that, given their lifespan, some infrastructure lack the necessary load capacity or adaptive capability. Shortfalls of this kind could leave some of Canada's infrastructure vulnerable and ill-prepared to cope with adverse climate effects," said the report.

"Disruption or damage to these widespread and common categories of physical infrastructure could have major ramifications for public health, safety and effective functioning."

Despite the significance of the warnings, the report - which was based on reviews of new research literature and a series of case studies and analysis by Ouranos, a climate change adaptation research consortium that was established by the Quebec government - is the second federal government report about climate change impacts to be quietly posted on an Internet website with little fanfare….

South end of the High Level Bridge over the Kinsmen Sports Center grounds in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Winterforce Media WinterE229, Wikimedia Commons

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