A warming climate has made past long-term weather patterns unreliable in planning for the future, says Environment Canada climatologist David Phillips.
Speaking to a provincial disaster management conference in Winnipeg, Phillips said municipal planners should now consider climate change when approving new building designs or even where to locate water treatment plants and transmission lines.
"The cost of considering climate change in your initial plans is maybe zero to five per cent more. And it’s a lot less expensive than retrofitting after the fact," Phillips said.
With warmer temperatures come more frequent episodes of severe weather, including destructive rains and winds.
"The future is not going to look like the past," Phillips told the conference, which attracted more than 450 government officials, first responders and emergency measures experts when it opened on Wednesday but had thinned out somewhat by this morning because of the impending snowstorm.
Phillips said governments will have to enhance building codes to adapt to a warmer future with more extreme weather events.
He said building codes generally are "not keeping up with the science of climate change and the science of building materials, the building sciences."
He said some communities are also beginning to integrate climate change considerations into public health and disaster risk planning.
Meanwhile, Phillips said that because of the timing of the looming storm, Winnipeggers can expect this weekend’s snow to last until March.