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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning implications of a carbon dioxide-induced global warming in the Vancouver area Brooks, Kathy


This thesis determines the planning implications in the Vancouver area of a possible carbon dioxide-induced global warming, based upon an extensive literature review and interviews with people knowledgeable about the activities that could be affected. Possible scenarios of Vancouver's climate under global warming conditions are created by comparing the results from three different sets of analyses: (1) a review of computer models of global climate, (2) a review of paleoclimatic evidence and (3) a review of recent recorded data. These three methods each suggest Vancouver's climate would be warmer and wetter if the global average surface temperature increases as a result of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. Evidence suggests that by 2050, annual precipitation would increase by approximately 10 per cent and average annual surface temperature would be 13°C to 15°C compared to the present average of 9.8°C. A warmer and wetter climate has implications for many human activities in the Vancouver area. This thesis examines the implications for (1) agricultural practices, (2) flooding conditions, (3) water supply, and (4) human settlement patterns (1) Agriculture in the Vancouver area could benefit from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide because warmer temperatures would allow a wider range of crops, a longer growing season and increased productivity. Wetter conditions would demand less irrigation. However, a longer growing season and increased productivity would place increased demands on the soil and could lead to increased pest and disease problems. (2) The present annual threat of flooding by the Fraser River would probably decrease because of decreased precipitation in the interior drainage basin. However, extensive flooding could occur as a result of polar ice melting and subsequent sea level rise. (3) Increased precipitation and increased temperature could require changes to the water supply system. If snowpack is decreased, additional reservoir capacity may be required. (4) Human Settlement may be affected by changes in agricultural practices or water supply, but will most likely be more severely affected by sea level rise and increased runoff. Many strategies can be initiated in response to the carbon dioxide-induced warming. Preventing the build-up of carbon in the atmosphere seems a difficult and unlikely response given the problems of unknown technologies, timing, and the need for international cooperation. Research, monitoring, contingency planning and adaptive strategies appear to be the more effective for the immediate decades. These strategies suggest monitoring changes and rate of change, a periodic re-evaluation of management policies in light of new information from research and monitoring, a periodic re-assessment of research priorities and the dissemination of information likely to aid in the implementation of contingency plans when they become needed. In general, the human systems affected by a global warming need to be made more resilient to respond to changing conditions. in the Vancouver area attention should be focussed on the following issues: (1) A further analysis of the hazards due to sea level rise and an analysis of the possible responses including additional dyke construction and evacuation and resettlement. (2) A further evaluation of the impacts on agriculture. (3) Further analysis of the extent and magnitude of other impacts not analysed in this thesis such as the impacts on forestry, fisheries, wildlife and major infrastructure such as sewage disposal facilities. As well a more detailed analysis of the positive impacts is necessary. All of these strategies require public support if they are to be initiated and effective. A public education program is required to develop understanding of possible outcomes, to build concensus on what should be done and to provide support for actions that are initiated. A coordinating body, preferably the Greater Vancouver Regional District, is require to ensure the necessary actions are taken and to provide liaison with other government departments and agencies that would be involved.

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