Editorial – Futureproofing for tomorrow’s climate

The continuing wildfires burning in Northern Quebec and Eastern Ontario prompted advisories that are becoming more of an annual tradition – poor air quality. The impact of smoke from those wildfires prompted a range of measures from cancellation of some outdoor sports activities, to students being kept in for recess. Air quality advisories are becoming more frequent, and it is not just a “big city problem.”

It is clear that our climate is in a constant state of change. We are not debating whether that change is due to the effects of 260-plus years of industrialization, a natural occurrence, or some combination of the two – whatever the cause all scenarios point to our ever-changing environment getting warmer. This means that we need to put serious effort into how to adapt to those changing conditions.

In Canada, we are sorely behind in adapting existing buildings to the ever-changing climate. Much of our “modern” infrastructure dates to the post-World War II boom. Buildings were built with little thought given to properly cooling down a building.

Schools were built with minimal environmental controls, namely just boiler heat. Heat waves during the school year did not happen in the 1950s or 60s. Now there frequently heat waves earlier and earlier in the year – as early as the beginning of May. While hospitals are modernizing or being rebuilt, many still have facilities that are decades old. During the peak of the air quality advisory last week was news of surgeries being cancelled as air intakes were closed to prevent smoke and containments entering hospital air systems.

It was not just civil buildings and public spaces that were affected, in areas heaviest hit by the air quality advisory. Homeowners could not have their windows open or properly run their home ventilation systems due to smoke.

Looking at the changing climate and how it is forecast that we will see more changes in the near future, and the need for us to adapt, it is clear that not enough is being done to mitigate the changing environment. Provincial and Federal government representatives practically fawn over each to give billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for private, foreign-owned companies to build vehicle battery plants and the like. Yet those same representatives scrimp and cut corners paying for public infrastructure improvements that adapt buildings we have to the changing climate. Using public money to truly invest in our own infrastructure should be our first priority, not our last. Providing better incentives to help homeowners adapt should also be a high priority.

Futureproofing infrastructure and homes to adapt to changing climate needs will pay far greater dividends for Canadians now – and for years to come.

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