From wood maintenance to simple building market upgrades, here’s what you can do to prepare for climate change

Philip Van Wassenaer crouches down to nail down the bottom of a 25-foot-tall tree in Scarborough, Ont.

He does not tap for juice – the nails around the base of this tree will help him diagnose its health.

Once the sonic tomography sensors are attached to the nails, Van Wassenaer gently taps on each one and sends sound waves through the trunk. The device measures how fast the sound is moving and a small screen shows different colors for different speeds, which essentially shows what the wood looks like inside and reveals any rotten device.

“It can be attributed to climate change, but we are more often asked to look more closely at the risk of urban trees,” said Van Wassenaer, an arborist consultant for 30 years.

SE | Arborist Philip Van Wassenaer uses a sonic tomograph to look into a tree:

Arborist Philip Van Wassenaer shows how a sonic tomograph provides an insight into the health of a tree. 2:38

“We’re seeing climate change happen. It’s not somewhere else, it’s here. But that does not necessarily mean that all our trees have suddenly become a problem.”

Van Wassenaer says there needs to be a more balanced approach: Trees need to be saved whenever possible because they absorb greenhouse gases, which helps mitigate climate change and prevent soil erosion, which contributes to mudslides.

“Some trees should definitely be removed, many trees can be made smaller. They could be wired. There are so many conservation techniques.”

Philip Van Wassenaer, who has been a counseling tree nurse for 30 years, says people love the trees around them, but he gets several calls lately asking him to assess their health. (Bruce Greg / CBC)

The devastating effects of climate change and extreme weather are no longer theoretical, and experts say tree maintenance is just one of several preventative measures people and municipalities should take to prepare for more intense and frequent storms.

Different parts of Canada have ‘slightly different risks’

Cheryl Evans, director of flood and wildlife resilience at the University of Waterloo’s Intact Center on Climate Adaptation, said “every place in the country has slightly different risks, which are present now and will continue to rise.”

Residents should regularly inspect trees around their properties and perform preventative maintenance, such as pruning, when necessary.

“When winters get hot, we’ll get a lot more icy rain as opposed to snow, so we’ll see a lot more strain on trees – so check how close the trees are to your hydro lines.”

A downed tree trunk is smoldering after a forest fire swept through a wooded area near Chasm Provincial Park, near 70 Mile House, BC, on July 15th. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

Other regions will have warmer summers and drier conditions, which contributed to the forest fires that devastated the village of Lytton, BC, last June. Meanwhile, in the fall, atmospheric rivers flooded British Columbia’s interior, causing floods and mudslides at sites such as Princeton, Agassiz and Merritt.

“For most people, flooding, high heat and freezing rain will be some of the most important impacts,” Evans said.

She said some preparations are as easy as a trip to the hardware store.

Cheryl Evans is Director of Flood and Wildlife Resistance at the University of Waterloo’s Intact Center on Climate Adaptation. (Posted by Cheryl Evans)

“Make sure your eavestroughs are clear and your downspouts allow water to flow away from your foundation. Place valuables or potentially toxic objects on a basement shelf so they do not get damaged or contaminate the water.”

Cities are also preparing

Evans says national building codes are being updated and may require builders to use such things as extra nails for roof shingles and hurricane straps in high-risk areas or install check valves and sump pumps to prevent sewer back-ups in homes.

Just as homeowners may want to do a risk assessment and preventative maintenance on their properties, cities across the country are preparing for climate change – just on a larger scale.

Glenn McGillivray, executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at Western University in London, Ont., Says municipalities are being encouraged to prepare their infrastructure for more common extreme weather events.

Soldiers fill sandbags to help protect dikes from flooding again in Princeton, BC, on November 24th. (Maggie MacPherson / CBC)

“The beauty of engineering is that all we have to do is say, ‘Let’s build this to a higher standard,’ and engineers can go to work and decide what that standard should be,” McGillivray said.

But he says tools are needed to better understand where the risk is – better mapping of floods, for example, and better mapping of the risk of forest fires.

“We know what things can be done to make our infrastructure more robust,” McGillivray said. “It’s going to be expensive, but passivity will be far more expensive.”

Placement in rainwater ponds

Lou Di Gironimo, general manager of Toronto Water, says storms have become more severe over the past few decades and that the city has invested billions of dollars in flood mitigation programs.

Lou Di Gironimo is the general manager of Toronto Water. (OCWA)

“We are increasing the capacity of our system by deploying rainwater ponds, we are putting holding tanks in place, we are putting larger sewers in place to handle major storm events,” he said. “[Storms are] much more rain falls in less time. “Instead of filling a tub with a faucet slowly, it’s like using a fire hose.”

After storms in 2006 and 2013, the city’s flooding program in the basement surveyed 67 different sewerage areas at risk of back-up and prioritized $ 2.1 billion in improvement issues.

“We are hardening these places, giving them greater protection and greater resilience so that they will not be damaged during storms,” ​​Di Gironimo said.

What Toronto is doing at the local level, the federal government is doing nationally – a comprehensive national adaptation strategy for climate change is underway.

McGillivray, of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, says it will map parts of the country for possible impacts on agriculture, transportation and supply chains from extreme weather events.

“This document is absolutely crucial for adapting to climate change and risk reduction,” he says of the plan, which is due to be released in the fall of 2022.

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