Record-high temperatures and sea level rise are in Nanaimo’s forecast in the decades to come, and the city has adopted a strategy to try to cope.
Councillors adopted a climate change resilience strategy for the City of Nanaimo at a special council meeting Monday.
According to the report, Nanaimo’s hottest day of the year is expected to rise from a baseline of 31 C between 1971-2000 to 34.5 C in the 2050s and 36.7 C in the 2080s. The sea level is expected to rise from a 6.68-metre baseline to 7m in the 2050s and 8.1m in the 2100s.
“We take all these projections and then we try to explore how these are going to actually impact Nanaimo and its facilities, buildings, services, assets and everything else,” said Lisa Westerhoff, principal at Integral Group, which partnered with Tamsin Mills Resilience Consulting in compiling the report.
Westerhoff said the focus was on adaptation and resilience, not mitigation, noting that climate change mitigation efforts are underway in various sectors of the municipality.
The resilience strategy was paid for with $175,000 from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ climate innovation program, and a city staff report noted that the city spent an additional $50,000 and invested staff time.
“The objective really was to identify expected and current climate change impacts to the city and come up with a range of actions that we can take over the short term and the long term, but also recognize the work that we are doing now as well as potential gaps that we need to fill as we move forward,” said Rob Lawrance, the city’s environmental planner.
Westerhoff said consultants worked with Associated Engineering on climate projections, including scaling down global scientific data to regional levels, and the report cited additional studies including a City of Nanaimo sea level rise study and a Nanaimo Regional General Hospital climate change vulnerability assessment report.
Some of the other climate change impacts mentioned in the report included longer periods of drought, from a 22-day baseline to 26 days in the 2050s and 29 days in the 2080s, and growing wildfire risk. Also of note, freezing temperatures are expected to become less common and the growing season – when the daily average temperature is above 5 C – is expected to expand from a baseline of 262 days per year to 322 days in 2050 and 349 days in 2100.
Westerhoff said potential climate impacts were ranked according to risk level and the city’s vulnerability, and the report presents 67 recommendations including 35 which it refers to as “priority actions.” For example, with “hotter, drier summers” forecast, the report recommends the city update its water supply strategic plan. As well, Westerhoff mentioned that the tax base could be challenged due to response and recovery spending following extreme weather events, and the report recommends ensuring allowances for that sort of spending in city reserves.
Westerhoff said the city won’t be “starting from scratch” with its climate resiliency response.
“There were a lot of existing actions underway that could be thought of as adaptation actions, lots of existing plans and standards that are already starting to set the bar for what we would consider an adaptation action,” she said, mentioning the city’s asset management plan, urban forest management plan and community wildfire protection plan as examples.
Lawrance told councillors that implementation of the strategy will be a collective effort across the city’s departments, and mentioned that the next official community plan could include performance measures tied to climate resiliency.
Coun. Ben Geselbracht and others thanked consultants and staff for their efforts on the strategy.
“This is a really critical part of our overall environmental framework,” he said.