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Geographic Context In Planning And Its Problems

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Introduction

Every day planners have to face these so called “Wicked Problems”. These problems are problems that are very difficult to solve due to constantly changing variables. In a planning context the problems could be anything from land use to community engagement, the list is endless. Climate change may be the most urgent one of the problems planners have to tackle. Climate change affects us all. We may not realize the broad scope of areas it affects but our planet is changing rapidly. From the rise of the sea level to higher temperatures, and more severe storms, climate change is the primary driving force behind these issues. Situated in three distinctly different areas across Canada, Halifax, Toronto, and Kamloops, will all experience climate changes affects in their own ways. From flooding to forest fires, climate change is inevitable at this point and its now all up to us to figure out how to best prepare for the future. Planners now need to look further and further into the future to plan for what the planet has in store for us. This report will look at what climate change issues face these cities and how the cities plan on solving those issues.

Halifax

Situated on the east coast is Halifax. Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia started small as a British fort in contest to the French fort Louisbourg in Cape Breton. Halifax came to prosper during wartimes when lots of soldiers flooded the town, but during times of peace Halifax’s economy fell into decline. Through the years Halifax evolved from a small fort into a rather large shipping port with one of the deepest natural harbors in the world. With modern logistics, a rail system, and container ships being introduced into the area, Halifax became a major shipping hub for Canada. In 2016 Halifax’s population was 316000 people in its downtown core. (Statistics Canada) The Halifax waterfront has become a popular tourist destination with stores, restaurants, hotels, and historic sights. The sea level is rising, and Halifax is sinking. With sea level projections rising up to 1.3 meters by 2100, Halifax’s waterfront could quickly end up under water. (Wells and Charles, 2015) At the moment there are three different projections for how high the sea level will rise by 2100. The first projection is the continuation of the historical rate, with the expected rise of 16 centimeters. The next projection is a rise of 57 centimeters coming from the Intergovernmental Pannell on Climate Changes fourth assessment in 2007. The third projection comes from recent scientific journals who project an enormous rise of 1.3 meters by 2100. (Wells and Charles) With a higher sea level also comes a higher storm surge. In 2003 hurricane Juan hit Halifax and causing storm surge reaching 2.9 meters and record wave heights recorded from a buoy outside of the harbour reaching 9 meters. (Bowyer, 2003) A surge of 2.9 meters above sea level in Halifax would completely flood the waterfront causing millions of dollars in damages to residential, commercial, and historic properties.

Halifax has a plan in place to respond and adapt to climate change. As for the waterfront, new buildings must be built at least 2.5 meters above the regular high-water mark leaving lots of room for sea level rise. (Mcclearn,2018) Halifax has also built new sea walls around the northwest arm to slow erosion. Also, the city has implemented living shoreline project, which consists of haybales and native plants being planted along the shores to slow erosion and keep the banks intact. To try and slow the effects of climate change Halifax has also launched the Solar City program where they install roof top solar panels to run electric water heaters. During the projects pilot the city installed 388 systems over the course of 2 years. (Medima, 2016) Halifax’s next proposed steps towards creating a more comprehensive climate change plan are as follows: “· A modelling exercise to accurately predict the impact of heavy wave action on harbour-front properties;· Development of a risk assessment database containing information on the vulnerability of harbour-front properties· The creation of measures that could include minimum ground elevation for new development, engineered solutions such as raising wall heights, and land use and development regulations for flood-prone areas· Further consultation with property owners and other stakeholders to obtain feedback on options and strategies” (Wells and Charles, 2015)At the moment Halifax is working with developers to set standards for how high new developments need to be from sea level, and how to protect the existing buildings on the waterfront. (Mcclearn, 2018)

Toronto

Located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario lies Toronto. With a population of 2.9 million, it is Canadas most populous city. Starting as a humble meeting rounds for native tribes to the thriving mega city it is today. Toronto in the 1940s saw a huge expanse of industrial expansion with increased steam boat and rail traffic in the town’s ports. This industrial expansion led to lots of new factories and jobs. When small farming villages around Toronto went into economic decline during the wars, Toronto’s manufacturing base allowed them to keep producing goods for the war and keep their economy somewhat stable. (Benn, 2017) The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) houses 40% of Canadas national business headquarters and the area produces one fifth of the entire country’s GPA. (Drummond, Burleton, Manning, and Richardson, 2002)When building Toronto, the city’s planners failed to look far enough into the future when designing the city’s water management systems. All of Toronto’s infrastructure was built for a certain temperature, level of rain, severity of storm. We are quickly leaving this environmental window Toronto was designed for. Over the last few years Toronto has seen two devastation storms that crippled the city’s infrastructure causing billions in damages. The first storm being an extreme rain storm with over a 120mm of rain fall in 2 hours. This storm caused mass flooding over loading the city’s drainage systems. The Go Train was immobilized due to the flooding of the Don River. Later that year Toronto experienced a severe winter storm knocking out the power grid leaving people without power for weeks.

Toronto city officials are now realizing that something needs to be done to prepare their city for the future. Toronto’s game plan for prepping the city for climate change consists of a new green development standard, where new buildings need to abide by a set of guidelines to fit into a certain tier, with higher tiers rewarding developers with financial incentives. The goal of the green development standard is to get developers to start adapting to the changing environment, while also reducing the city’s contribution to global warming in attempts to slow the process. Some of the standards in the tier 1 include:Toronto Green Standard V3 (2018), Image via City of Toronto· 15% energy efficiency above OBC· Tree planting· Storm water retention· Green or cool roofs· Cool paving · Cycling infrastructureTiers 2-4 are optional, but they do have financial benefits attached. These tiers set the bar higher with 15 points that have to be hit to be a tier 2 building. (Del Prete,2018) These points are as follows:”

  1. Urban Heat Island Reduction: At-Grade
  2. Energy Performance
  3. Solar Readiness
  4. District Energy Connection
  5. Benchmarking & Reporting
  6. Commissioning & Reporting
  7. Air Tightness Testing
  8. Resilience Planning
  9. Stormwater Retention & Reuse
  10. Water efficiency
  11. Efficient Irrigation
  12. Enhanced Lighting
  13. Lighting Controls
  14. Household Hazardous Waste
  15. Construction Waste Management” (Del Prete, 2018)

Toronto aims to make the city more and more environmentally friendly with every new iteration of the standards. Over 1500 developments have already met the tier one standards and there are more to come. (King and Scott, 2018)

Toronto’s main plan to adapt and combat climate change is their 60 billion dollar “TransformTO” plan. The TransformTO plan aims to achieve an 80% reduction in green house gas (GHG) emissions by 2050(an 80% reduction of the amount of green house gas in 1990). The Transform TO plan aims to include the public along with developers and the city works to achieve this lofty goal. How the city aims to hit this figure consists of a series of time bound goals. These goals include:“- Design and build all new City-owned facilities to be near zero GHG emissions by 2026;-Retrofit all City-owned buildings, including social housing, to the highest emission reduction technically feasible, on average achieving a 40% energy savings over 2017 building energy performance by 2040; – Install 24MW capacity of renewable energy on City-owned facilities and lands by 2020;- Establish a green fleet plan to transition 45% of City-owned fleet to low-carbon vehicles by 2030;-Achieve a net zero waste status at all City-owned facilities by 2030; – Generate and utilize 1.5 Million Giga-joules of energy from biogas by 2030; and – Earn designation as one of Canada’s Top 100 Green Employers by 2020” (Baxter and Scioli, 2017, p.3)The city of Toronto currently believes that with some drastic changes and increased effort from the public, that 80% reduction green house gas emissions will still be possible by the year 2050. (Pickering, 2017)

Kamloops

On Canadas west coast located 355 kilometres inland of Vancouver lies the city of Kamloops. With a population of just over 90000 people Kamloops is the smallest city featured in this report. Similar to Toronto, Kamloops started off as a trading post for natives in the area. Kamloops’s growth really started after World War One with a huge industrial boom. “An oil refinery, a natural gas pipe line and by the late 1960s a pulp and paper mill.” (City of Kamloops, 2018) Hard financial time fell upon Kamloops and they suffered a drop-in population, until the late 1980s when they had a financial boom. This financial boom brought the construction of the Riverside Coliseum. (City of Kamloops-A, 2018) The coliseum is what kicked of Kamloops’s booming tourism industry. In 2017 Kamloops welcomed 1.8 million tourists spending 270 million dollars in the city. (Desantis, 2017)

Kamloops being located in dry interior British Columbia is very susceptible to wildfires. This year to date Kamloops has experiences 427 wildfires already burning 54,343 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service) The dry Kamloops climate makes very easy for fires to start. On Thursday July 12th, a construction crew was doing renovation on a resident’s house. One member of the crew was using an angle grinder to cut some metal that caused some sparks. The sparks had caught nearby plant material on fire and the crew tried to put it out. The crew failed to extinguish the fire, so the local fire department came but could also not extinguish it.(Peters and Sperling, 2018) By Friday morning the fire was out of control and had spread to 500 hectares.(Judd, 2018) Kamloops’s climate is so dry that a single spark can start a blaze that cant be stopped for weeks, and with climate change the problem is just getting worse. Temperatures in British Colombia are expected to rise 2.5 degrees Celsius annually by 2050. (Carman, 2017) These fires are hurting Kamloops’s economy not only by causing millions in damages to properties and surrounding areas, but also by restricting tourism in the area. With tourism being such huge part of the city’s economy, it is instrumental that the city plans for future fires. The Batchelor Heights grassfire is seen from the air [Photograph found in Kamloops]. (n.d.).

Planners in Kamloops are now starting to take action against these fires. They implemented the “Wildfire Protection Plan” to try and minimize the loss and damage caused by these fires. The plan consists of 6 main ideas to try and help protect the city from future fires. The ideas are as follows:

  • To identify and quantify the forestland wildfire threats that directly impact on the developed land within the City of Kamloops
  • To identify and map all possible fuel management treatment areas within approximately 200 meters of developed areas, that would assist in reducing the wildfire threats in the area
  • To establish fuel management guidelines for the City of Kamloops to allow quantifiable assessments of past fuel management activities to ensure fuel treatments meet a consistent standard over time and identify maintenance priorities
  • To prioritize new fuel management activities and a maintenance schedule for past treatment units· To identify opportunities to improve wildfire suppression access to the crown land surrounding the community
  • To ensure all fuel management activities recognize the important recreational and visual values of the forested land in and around the City of Kamloops
  • To increase awareness of the unique wildfire threats in the City of Kamloops area”(City of Kamloops-B, 2018)

They city knows that they will not be able to stop all wildfires in the area, but with their Wildfire Protection Plan they aim to greatly reduce the amount of fires that occur. Therefore, minimising loss of property and reducing environmental harm. As part of the Wildfire Prevention plan there are plans to implement new municipal water supply system to new developments and high-risk areas. The city is also creating fuel breaks, which are lines clear cut in forests that help stop and slow the spread of fires by creating an area with no fuel for the fire to burn. These cuts are especially important because of the ecology of the area. Most of the trees are interior dry species such as pine and fir that tend to burn very easily. (City of Kamloops, 2008)

Conclusion

The world we know today is rapidly changing, whether we can see it or not it is happening all around us. Planners need to be on their toes and ready to adapt to the climate they are working in. As highlighted in this report geographic location is a major factor when it comes to planning, even when it comes to planning within the same country. Climate changes affects are very broad, anything from colder colds to hotter hots. Halifax, Toronto, Kamloops, each of these cites are located in completely different climates, and have different issues facing their city, but they all need planning in context to their region to solve their problems. Looking at the past will help the planners establish a baseline for new ideas to solve these “Wicked Problems” that we as planners face on a daily basis. What worked in St. Johns to fix their sea level problem might not work in Halifax, or what worked in Fort MacMurray to solve their forest fire issue might not work in Kamloops. It is more evident than ever before that planning is an integral part of a city’s future. Though these “Wicked Problem” may not have one simple solution, planners are a vital part of the way cities go about solving them for their area.

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