Climate Change and Winter Road Maintenance: Planning for Change in the City of Prince George, British Columbia
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Throughout Canada, significant resources are dedicated to winter road maintenance (WRM) activities. While changes in technology and materials are affecting WRM decisions, climate variability and change will also be of considerable importance in long-term decision making. This research explores how anticipated changes in winter weather may affect WRM activities in Prince George, British Columbia. The goal of this thesis is to contribute to our understanding of adaptation planning in the municipal transportation sector, and in particular to explore the ways in which empirical estimates of change may affect adaptation decisions. The link between weather and snow and ice control are analyzed using WRM data made available by the City of Prince George and meteorological observations from Environment Canada. The approach taken to document the association between winter weather and WRM expenditures is a winter severity index. Findings show that, notwithstanding changes in maintenance strategies, much of the historic variability in WRM can be attributed to weather. This winter severity index was applied to simulated climate data based on 65 global climate models from the Canadian Climate Change Scenarios Network. Based on the mid-range of the 65 projections, climate models indicate that the Prince George Region is expected to be 1.5°C to 2.4°C degrees warmer and have 3.7% to 10.6% more precipitation. The expected net effect for winter maintenance is reductions in expenditures by 15.3% to 22.7% by the 2050s. The empirical results of this thesis were presented to decision-makers in the City of Prince George using a semi-structured interview process to establish the extent to which site-specific climate change impact assessments could help to overcome the barrier of lack of local knowledge in climate change adaptation planning. Results indicate that the empirical analysis of projected changes in the demand for WRM activities led to the development of new knowledge; however, the degree to which this knowledge creates climate-change readiness remains unclear. Overall, the semi-structured interview process highlighted a number of barriers and enablers of adaptation planning action at the municipal level. Institutional inertial, path dependency, the role of governance structure, political timelines, resident influence, and uncertainty surrounding weather and climate information were all identified as being influential.