Coping with Climate Change: British Columbia Professional Organizations Step Up


Complementary Symposia

“For BC’s engineers, planners and environmental scientists, the need to adapt plans and projects to account for climate change has become critical,” stated Eric Bonham, Chair of the BCWWA Climate Change Committee.  “But make no mistake: Eric Bonham_2008_120pwhile there may be general consensus on climate change predictions at the global scale, real discussion of climate change impacts in our own “backyard” – be it a city, a watershed, or a particular project site – is just getting started. In most cases, the emergence of “best practices” – or even “standard practices” – is still on the horizon.”

In response to this challenge, three of BC’s leading professional organizations, the Air and Waste Management Association (AWMA), the BC Water and Waste Association (BCWWA), and the Canadian Water Resources Association (CWRA) have been working together to provide leadership on this issue. The result was two complementary symposia held in late April 2008.

Changing Climate, Uncertain Future and Evolving Practices

The first symposium titled “Changing Climate, Uncertain Futures, and Evolving Practices” was co-hosted by the AWMA BC and Yukon Chapter and the BC Branch of CWRA, and held at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue (April 21-23). The symposium used presentations from acknowledged climate change experts and collaborative panel discussions to promote consensus-based understanding of:

  • What local climate scientists are predicting for BC and the Pacific Northwest;
  • Which tools and approaches are best suited for assessing various climate change impacts; and
  • How we move toward best-practice approaches for incorporating climate change into our day-to-day work.

In addition, the symposium offered two optional workshops focusing on tools for wind energy modeling and for downscaling of climate change scenarios from global to regional scales.

Our Climate is Changing…Now What?

The second symposium, titled “Our Climate is Changing…Now What?”  focussed upon the practitioner and the anticipated impacts of climate change upon water and wastewater infrastructure throughout British Columbia. The symosium was held in Whistler on April 30 in conjunction with the BCWWA Annual Conference.

The challenges that face the decision makers, scientists, engineers and administrators managing this infrastructure in the face of climate change will require a level of cooperation throughout all levels of government, as well as partnerships with the business, academic sector and the general public, which has not been demonstrated to date.

Presentations from practitioners in Seattle and Olympia, responsible for the administration of public works, identified how these two communities are preparing themselves for climate change impacts and a presentation on wastewater infrastructure provided a Lower Mainland perspective.

The symposium included a recently released documentary that identifies the need to re-think our land use planning strategies in view of sea level rise in the Metro Vancouver area. A range of panel experts discussed and identified the core issues arising from the seminar to guide future direction.