Canada's National Research Council recently launched a new initiative to address the impact of climate change.
The agency is upgrading building codes, specifications, guidelines and assessment tools. It plans to release new specifications for the design of houses, buildings, roads, bridges, water systems and transit networks by 2020.
The $40 million project has the "potential to have a profound impact on the Canadian construction industry and on the future of buildings in Canada," says Doug Crawford, chair of the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes.
"With climate change, the total annual precipitation is increasing, as well as the frequency and severity of extreme events, such as heat waves, high winds, floods and droughts, all of which is resulting in increased stress on built structures," says Richard Tremblay, general manager of construction at the National Research Council of Canada.
Environment and Climate Change Canada says Canada's temperature is rising more quickly than the global average, resulting in changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events.
There are hotter summer nights and a risk of more flooding and forest fires.
Every dollar spent on adapting infrastructure today will result in $9 to $38 in avoided damages in the future, says the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Every dollar spent on energy-efficient programs for buildings generates between $4 and $8 of GDP in the country, Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, recently told a forum in Ottawa.
"It is clear the impacts of climate change are real and they are framing the problems of the 21st century," she said. "Canadians want more energy-efficient buildings. And there is a lot we can do on this front. We can update codes for new buildings to make them more energy efficient. We can also retrofit our homes and buildings, which saves Canadians money on their heating bills. Construction is a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada. When we make our infrastructure more energy efficient, we also create more jobs."
There are also lots of things that you can do at home to help slow climate change.
Insulate your home and install energy-efficient doors and windows. Seal cracks to keep in the warmth. Try lowering the temperature on your water heater to between 55 C and 60 C and insulating your pipes.
Save electricity by using energy-efficient lighting. Turn off computers and electronics when they are not being used.
Fix any leaky faucets in the home and consider installing low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads. You won't notice any difference but they can save a lot of water.
Clean your ventilation system, which will cut down on energy use as well as improving air quality and comfort. Each year, clean the filters on your furnace and your heat recovery ventilator if you have one.
Use cold water to wash your clothes and consider hanging them outside or on a drying rack instead of using the dryer.
When replacing your appliances, look for the models that have the best energy efficiency. All appliances are now clearly marked with energy efficiency ratings. Energy Star appliances use at least 20 per cent less energy than standard models, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The ministry also suggests that you contact your local utility to see if it offers "green power" alternatives, such as wind, water, coal or solar solutions. You may be able to switch to a company that offers power from renewable resources.
In spring when it's time to start your garden, use plants that require minimum watering. Plant trees.
The David Suzuki Foundation (www.davidsuzuki.org) says that garbage buried in landfill sites produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. "Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging."
Since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production, you can also help by changing your eating habits to include at least one meat-free meal a day, it says.
Transportation accounts for 25 per cent of emissions, so leaving the car at home and using public transit or walking, cycling or carpooling will also make a difference. Air travel leaves behind a huge carbon footprint, says the foundation. Avoid flying when possible.
The foundation also takes a political stand, urging you to "take a few minutes to contact your political representatives and the media to tell them you want immediate action on climate change. Remind them that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will also build healthier communities, spur economic innovation and create new jobs. And next time you're at the polls, vote for politicians who support effective climate policies."