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Calgary's Climate Program

Climate change in Calgary

69% of Calgarians agree that The City should be doing “more or much more” to address climate change.

74% of Calgarians agree that business and industry should be doing “more or much more” to address climate change.

78% of Calgarians agree that citizens should be doing "more or much more" to address climate change.

Calgary's Climate Resilience Plan: Adapting locally to mitigate current and future risks

The City of Calgary is currently developing a comprehensive plan to build Calgary's climate resilience. Climate resilience, an approach utilized by communities around the world recognizes the importance of both reducing carbon emissions to address the underlying causes of climate change (mitigation) and reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change (adaptation).
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Many actions that reduce our vulnerability to climate change can also, if designed appropriately, reduce carbon emissions and improve Calgarians' quality of life. For example, making room for flooding can also provide citizens with more recreational (and carbon-absorbing) green space. Planting trees in urban areas not only helps absorb carbon emissions, it provides cooling shade for people and habitat for birds and animals. Likewise, local food, water conservation, green roofs, alternate modes of transportation and district heating have multiple benefits.

What does climate change mean for Calgary?

Our climate is already changing

Over the past century, Calgary's average temperature has increased by 1.4°C, with most of that increase occurring since 1970. Over the same time, global average temperatures have increased by one degree, showing that in a changing climate, northern communities are warming at twice the global rate.

While one or two degrees may not sound like much when you are turning up your thermostat, like our own bodies, a global rise of just a few degrees has a big impact on our climate and weather.

Calgary in a changing climate

Global climate models show that our average temperatures will continue to warm, between potentially by 2°C and 4°C by the 2060 (compared to the 1990s), depending on global actions to reduce carbon pollution.

As Calgary's temperatures rise, we can expect our climate to become warmer and wetter and our seasons to shift—winters will be shorter, spring will arrive earlier and the number of freezing days will decline. While we often complain about our cold weather, it does help keep pests in check and maintains proper habitat for our native plants, fish and wildlife that have adapted around our specific climate.

A changing climate also increases the frequency and magnitude of extreme precipitation patterns like hail, heavy rains, flooding (such as the 2013 flood in southern Alberta) and increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, high winds, winter storms (such as the 2014 "Snowtember" storm), droughts, tornados and wildfires. These kinds of events will intensify and become more frequent in the future as the release and accumulation of greenhouse gases persist.

Since 2010, catastrophic insured losses have increased to more than $8-billion in Alberta alone, with Calgary becoming the hail capital of Canada from an insurance industry perspective. These risks place an increased demand on The City to provide leadership in preparing for and managing the impacts from changing climate conditions.

While climate change can leave many people feeling overwhelmed about their role in the problem and solution, there are many actions we can take now to withstand climate shocks (such as floods) and chronic stresses (such as droughts) while also reducing emissions over the long term and ensuring a good quality of life for all.

What climate change means for Calgary

Current impacts Future impacts​
​Increase in hot summer days. Extreme hot days (+30​°C) increase from 4 to 11 days by 2050, to upwards of 28 days by 2080.
​Increase in average warming of 1.4°C in Alberta, mostly since 1970s.1 This is twice the global average.2 Increase in average warming of 2°C by 2030s, 4°C by 2060s.​
​Increase in intense rain downpours.3 Less summer rain, down 6% by 2050, down 10% by 2080, but more of it will fall as intense downpours. Variability will increase potential of drought. ​
​Increased snowfall.4 More winter precipitation, up 7% by 2050 and 20% by 2080, though some falling as rain. Increased potential for serious floods.​
​Shrinking glaciers and earlier thawing in lakes and rivers.5 ​Western Canada projected to lose 70% of glaciers by 2100,6 making downstream water supply unpredictable.
​Alberta has seen an increase in the frequency and intensity of weather over the last 50 to 60 years, particularly hail, rainstorms and high winds.7 ​Extreme weather events will become more common and severe.8 These include heat waves, droughts, high winds, hail, winter storms, lightning, floods and tornadoes.
​Increased potential for invasive species. ​Increased invasive species such as zebra mussels,9 pine beetles, Dutch Elm Disease, ticks,10 West Nile Virus and Hantavirus.11
​Shifts in the number and distribution of fish and wildlife.12 ​Warming temperatures will force native wildlife to change their migration patterns. Shifting seasons will interrupt natural breeding and migratory cycles, causing a decline in populations.13
​Increase in consecutive frost-free days. Calgary's plant hardiness zone changed from 3a to 4a in 2010.14 Decrease in extreme cold weather days. ​Generally, winters will be warmer and potentially shorter. Increase in frost-free days of more than 35% by 2080. Decrease of extreme cold days (-30°C).
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Taking action

What can citizens do?

 

Climate change in Calgary

What is The City of Calgary doing?

Climate change risks are managed through mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation is action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and includes energy efficiency and use of renewables. Adaptation is a risk management strategy and reduces the damages from climate change impacts that cannot be avoided.

Mitigation

Calgary has a target to reduce city-wide greenhouse gas emissions to 20 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 per cent below 2005 levels by 2050. Corporately, The City generates 4 per cent of the city-wide greenhouse gas emissions, while 96 per cent of emissions come from the community. The 2011 Community Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan provides strategies to address greenhouse gas emission reduction and energy efficiency through mitigation, and targets land-use planning, transportation, buildings and people including industrial, commercial and institutional sectors for both the community and corporation.

2015 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

What The City is doing (operationally):

  • The Corporate Energy Strategy and Plan were developed as the foundation of The City’s energy management practices – moving us from vision to action.

The Corporate Energy Strategy identified the key priorities to direct The City’s energy decisions and future planning, including efficient services, energy supply options, and Corporate capabilities.

The Corporate Energy Plan 2016-2026 looks beyond business as usual and proposes a set of 38 actions across five major areas. The Plan supports three types of resilience in City operations: efficiency of services, financial impact of energy, and environmental performance.

What The City is providing (services):

Adaptation

A number of adaptive measures have been applied by business units reacting to a changing climate – from the sustainable building policy to new bridge design, flood preparedness and emergency management planning to integrated watershed management. Preparation and recovery has been a main focus to ensure the safety of citizens and provision of services.

Resources

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References

1 Prairie Climate Centre. (2016). Calgary Report Card. Retrieved from http://prairieclimatecentre.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Calgary-ReportCard.pdf

2 Environment Canada. (2016). The Science of Climate Change. Retrieved from www.ec.gc.ca/sc-cs/Default.asp?lang=En&n=A5F83C26-1

3 Risk Sciences International. (2016). Climate Change Hazards Information Portal.

4 Risk Sciences International. (2016). Climate Change Hazards Information Portal.

5 Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). (2007). Impacts on Water Supply, “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: A Canadian Perspective.”

6 Clarke, G. K., Jarosch, A. H., Anslow, F. S., Radić, V., & Menounos, B. (2015). Projected deglaciation of western Canada in the twenty-first century. Nature Geoscience, 8(5), 372-377.

7 Gizaw, M. S., & Gan, T. Y. (2016). Possible impact of climate change on future extreme precipitation of the Oldman, Bow and Red Deer River Basins of Alberta. International Journal of Climatology, 36(1), 208-224.

8 Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). (2012). Telling the weather story. Retrieved from http://assets.ibc.ca/Documents/Studies/McBean_Report.pdf

9 Alberta Parks. (2016). Aquatic Invasive Species. Retrieved from www.albertaparks.ca/albertaparksca/scienceresearch/aquatic-invasive-species/

10 Alberta Health. (2016). Lyme disease & tick surveillance in Alberta. Retrieved from www.health.alberta.ca/healthinfo/lyme-disease.html

11 Yusa, A., Berry, P., J Cheng, J., Ogden, N., Bonsal, B., Stewart, R., & Waldick, R. (2015). Climate change, drought and human health in Canada. International journal of environmental research and public health, 12(7), 8359-8412.1 Yusa, A., Berry, P., J Cheng, J., Ogden, N., Bonsal, B., Stewart, R., & Waldick, R. (2015). Climate change, drought and human health in Canada. International journal of environmental research and public health, 12(7), 8359-8412.

12 Nixon, A., Shank, C., & Farr, D. (2015). Understanding and Responding to the Effects of Climate Change on Alberta’s Biodiversity. Retrieved from Edmonton, AB: http://www.biodiversityandclimate.abmi.ca.

13 Nixon, A., Shank, C., & Farr, D. (2015). Understanding and Responding to the Effects of Climate Change on Alberta’s Biodiversity. Retrieved from Edmonton, AB: http://www.biodiversityandclimate.abmi.ca.

14 Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). (2016). Plant Hardiness Zone by Municipality. Retrieved from http://www.planthardiness.gc.ca/?m=22&lang=en&prov=Alberta&val=C