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Here’s what climate change could look like in Canada

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Climate change is here, experts say, and Canada can expect to suffer the consequences.

The effects of a warming planet are going to be felt from coast to coast to coast. And, if we stick to a “business-as-usual” scenario — no change to our emissions — it’s going to happen a lot sooner than scientists initially thought, according to a recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

In July 2018, Montreal experienced 70 heat-related deaths as the city dealt with unusually hot temperatures into the 30s with stifling humidity that made it feel closer to 40 C. This summer, British Columbia experienced its worst fire season on record. In August, two brief thunderstorms caused widespread flooding in Toronto, bringing the downtown core to a standstill.

With a warming planet, we can expect to see more events like these, experts say.

“People say, well gee, the world’s warmed up by 1 C in the last 135 years, but there are parts of Canada that have warmed in some seasons by four, four-and-half degrees in a 70-year period,” Environment Canada’s senior climatologist, David Phillips says. “So twice as much in half the time.”

B.C. experienced its worst wildfire season this year, with more than 13,000 square kilometres burned. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

The greatest differences are seen in the north and the interior of continental coast in the west. The region with the greatest warming in 70 years is in the Mackenzie area of the Northwest Territories where temperatures have risen by between 4 C and 5 C in some parts.

Nationally, the summers have warmed by more than 1 C, with winters warming closer to 1.4 C.

“There are communities on the coast where people are experiencing sea-level rise, erosion and flooding,” says Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network, an umbrella group of environmental organizations. Indigenous communities “are experiencing a loss of their way of life because of climate change. So, the impacts are real globally, and they’re real here in Canada.”

This image shows a colour-coded map of Canada depicting temperature trends from 1948 to 2012. It illustrates that temperatures are warming across the country. (Environment and Climate Change Canada)

While it may seem like eastern Canada isn’t seeing much of a change, it is, and it’s catching up to the rest of the country. Rather than the change occurring during the past 70 years, it has occurred over the past 10 or 15, Phillips says.

“There’s no region of Canada that’s been left out in the cold.” 

Canada’s future

What does the future hold for Canada?

Phillips used models based on a “business-as-usual” path. Using the median, the models (run by the Laboratory of Mathematical Parallel Systems, or LAMPS at York University), Phillips says people living in Toronto could see 51 days a year above 30 C by 2050 and 77 by 2100. The current average is 16.

But just because temperatures are on the rise, doesn’t mean Torontonians will be done with winter completely. While Toronto gets 16 nights of temperatures reaching –15 C or lower, they’ll still get 4 by 2050 and 1 by 2100.

​ Torontonians might not want to celebrate just yet, however: those warmer temperatures bring increased chances of freezing rain events.

In Toronto and Montreal, there could be close to a 50 to 60 per cent increase of these potentially disastrous and costly events.

The 2013 ice storm in Toronto cost the city approximately $106 million. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

In the Prairies, growing days are expected to lengthen. That’s good news for farmers, but there are also negative consequences. 

“Some regions might benefit from longer growing seasons, but at the same time you have the impact of increased wildfires, for example, the smoke pollution that comes with that and the CO2 emissions,” said Felix Pretis, an assistant professor at the University of Victoria who studies the economic impacts of climate change.

Smoke from this year’s B.C. fires shrouded Edmonton, making it difficult for some to venture outside. (@Raptor_Chick/Twitter)​ Pretis said that the recent IPCC special report that compared the outcomes of a global temperature rise of 1.5 C versus 2 C is a stark reminder that there could be dangerous and costly outcomes. 

“The report … sends a really strong message that the two degrees that we talked about previously is not really a guardrail anymore, and that we should be very careful about the future,” said Pretis.

Costs

Canadians may revel at the prospect of warmer weather, but with that comes a price — literally.

“In Canada, now, the expression of extreme weather risk, the number one negative manifestation by far is flooding,” said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. “Flooding is the most expensive cost in Canada to extreme weather by a country mile, and specifically, basement flooding.

“This is real on-the-ground stuff that is costing us right now.”

A brief but soggy thunderstorm in August flooded Toronto streets, costing the city roughly $80 million. (@earthisanocean/Twitter)

Blair notes that, from 1983 to 2008, the cost of catastrophic insurable events annually ranged from $250 million to $500 million. Since 2009, however, in eight out of nine years, these costs have ballooned up to $1 billion or more a year, with a $1.8 billion average.

Pretis believes that part of the problem stems from the ways scientists are conveying their message about the consequences of a warming climate.

“I’m concerned about the lack of policy response,” Pretis said. “I think there’s a big challenge also how the scientific community conveys these findings to policy makers … I think we need to carefully translate these findings into local impacts that policymakers can relate to.”

The message is clear, he says: Canada needs to prepare for the future.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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