How can innovation help turn climate emergency declarations into real actions?

climate emergency declarations
© Karen Foley

Dr Xander Wang, Associate Professor at the Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation, is leading the Climate Smart Lab to innovate smart technologies supporting climate change adaptation at regional and local scales. Turning the symbolic declarations of climate emergency into real actions requires a systematic framework to address these issues

As the impacts of climate change become increasingly obvious around the world, focused efforts to mitigate the worst effects of climate change are becoming more urgent. Here in the Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), Dr Xander Wang is leading the Climate Smart Lab to innovate smart technologies to support climate change adaptation at regional and local scales. Advanced toolsets based on regional climate modelling, hydrological and flood modelling, big data analytics, geospatial modelling and visualisation, and citizen science are being developed to allow policy makers to make the best possible decisions about how to protect local communities from future climate-related disasters.

Promoting climate awareness at regional and local scales

Although there is an established common sense about global warming and climate change, most people around the world still don’t have a thorough understanding of climate change impacts on their own communities. For example, people who live inland usually don’t care about sea level rise, while people in the south are unlikely to understand the implication of the shrinking sea ice to the far-north communities unless they visit there in person. This is why people choose to ignore climate change in their daily decisions and actions because they often think global climate change is taking place in somewhere else and is “remote” from their own communities.

Apparently, the lack of awareness of climate change impacts at regional and local scales is one of the major reasons for no action towards the recent climate emergency declarations.

Dr Wang’s research focuses on developing a novel modelling and impact assessment framework to improve the understanding of climate change impacts at local communities, by using the state-of-the-art technologies in high-resolution climate modelling, GIS, remote sensing, geospatial data analysis, citizen science, climate monitoring, and social media. In particular, regional climate models (e.g., PRECIS, RegCM, WRF, and MPAS) and statistical downscaling techniques (e.g., rSCA) are used to develop high-resolution climate change scenarios at community levels. Web-based geospatial technologies are used to generate risk maps to help visualise the impacts of climate change (e.g., sea level rise, floods, droughts, and wildfires) and increase the public awareness of local climatic changes. Several citizen-science climate monitoring tools (shown in Figures 1-3) are being developed to increase community engagement in data collection and knowledge building for local climate change.

climate emergency declarations
Figure 1. The PEI Climate Diary App. This GIS- and web-based app integrates citizen science and climate phenology into a user-friendly interface to help increase community engagement in data collection and knowledge building for local climate change across PEI. It is available to the public here.
climate emergency declarations
Figure 2. The PEI Climate & Weather App. This GIS- and web-based app provides
real-time weather conditions reported by over 100 weather stations across PEI.
climate emergency declarations
Figure 3. The PEI Storm Surge Early Warning System. This GIS- and web-based app provides real-time monitoring information about ocean water levels across PEI and can automatically send out warnings for potential storm surge events. It is available to the public here.

Integrated coastal-inland flood simulation

Global warming has undoubtedly intensified extreme precipitation and caused unprecedented sea level rise around the world. This is especially true for coastal communities where local people have been experiencing the unprecedented threats from coastal-inland floods and coastal erosion. How to protect the local communities from coastal erosion and build climate-resilient coastal communities has become one of the most important questions to be addressed around the world.

Here in the Climate Smart Lab at UPEI, Dr Wang is now developing a state-of-the-art laboratory-scale coastal-inland flood simulation platform (see Figure 4) to facilitate holistic flood risk assessment by synthesising the combined effects of rising sea levels, intensified storm surges, and increasing inland floods caused by intense rainfall. The platform can support the planning of coastal adaptation measures, evaluation of the effectiveness of different coastal protection measures, as well as operational and emergency management of flooding events.

climate action
Figure 4. Illustration of the laboratory-scale coastal-inland flood simulation platform which is being developed in the Climate Smart Lab of Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation at UPEI.

Turning climate emergency declarations into real actions

The rapidly changing climate has driven hundreds of governments around the world to declare states of emergency. However, in comparison to the declarations of public health emergency due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which have led to immediate lockdowns globally, the declarations of climate emergency are largely symbolic gestures. The reasons for no real actions towards climate emergency are multifold, including but not limited to:

  • Lack of awareness of both opportunities and challenges of future climate change at local scales.
  • Lack of sustainable technologies towards changing climate conditions or poor understanding of the economic feasibility of potential technologies.
  • Lack of effective policies and societal engagement to facilitate the implementation of new technologies.

Turning the symbolic declarations of climate emergency into real actions requires a systematic framework to address these issues.

Dr Wang is leading an interdisciplinary team of researchers in the areas of climate change modelling and impact assessment, energy and environmental economics, and climate policies to develop a systematic modelling and analysis framework to help identify and promote effective climate actions. Compared to existing frameworks or methodologies which are either focused on high-level policy analysis or large-scale impact assessment, this innovative framework will be targeted for individual economic sectors and regional and local communities where real and immediate actions will take place. The framework can be used to:

  • Quantify the socioeconomic benefits and impacts of future climate change at local scales.
  • Identify economically feasible technologies and solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation from both near-term and long-term perspectives.
  • Promote immediate actions through effective policies and societal engagement.

 

Please note: This is a commercial profile

© 2019. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license

Contributor Profile

Associate Professor
Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation & School of Climate Change and Adaptation, University of Prince Edward Island
Phone: 1-902-739-2244 or 1-902-566-0405
Website: Visit Website

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