Future Delta: Gaming Technology and Climate Change

Please note next week’s talks on the Future Delta 2.0 works, both here at UBCV and at UBCO. Below is the specific info on the Tuesday talk. All are invited to come and join for wine&cheese afterwards.

Emerging Visions: Digital Media and Culture (new series)

Future Delta: Gaming Technology and Climate Change

Stephen Sheppard, Forest Resources Management, UBC-V; Aleksandra Dulic, Visual Arts, UBC-O

Coach House, Green College, UBC
6201 Cecil Green Park Road

January 14 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

“Future Delta” is an immersive and interactive virtual environment that acts as a tool for communication between researchers and the public. Combining climate change modeling, socioeconomic scenario analysis and 3D image modeling of real places, Dulic and Shepphard aim to make climate change science and solutions more salient and understandable


Building Sustainable Communities Conference at Delta Grand Okanagan Resort & Conference Centre in Kelowna

Dr. Stephen Sheppard will be giving a presentation at the Building Sustainable Communities Conference on November 27, 2013.

Here are the details:

Time Topic
2:45 pm–5pm Promoting Community-Led   Action on Green Energy with Visual Media
7:00 pm–9:00pm Visualizing Climate Change in   Your Own Background

Register at http://www.civicinfo.bc.ca/event/2013/bscconference.asp

Please see the link below for more details in the program.

BSC PROGRAM 11-Calp Website

Professional Learning Opportunity: Video gaming for experiential learning based in climate change science and Delta BC planning

Socially and scientifically responsible video games present an enormous opportunity for students to gain experience co-developing exciting new technology. For educators it is a chance to further expand resources available to them while meeting curriculum learning objectives in fun new ways. Revolutionizing the way the people experience interactive content, gaming offers students and instructors a win-win: to have fun conducting inquiry-based learning while engaging with the science of sustainability.

Climate change is a complex challenge which has been historically difficult to explain to a public audience, and even more difficult to respond to effectively. UBC’s Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP) has been working for many years with Delta residents, municipal staff, mayor and council in developing plausible futures; scenarios that describe real places in Delta through the century.

By integrating cutting-edge technology with supporting innovating instruction, we would like to engage students to be environmental stewards. CALP researchers would like to formally present this idea to instructors, demonstrate some of the state of the art augmented reality and emersion technology being used, and discuss how we can work together to development and test a climate change video game to empower lifelong learners to creatively construct their own futures.

A video demonstration of our research is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjvdOnEUrL4


Cover Story: Weathering the Coming Change

For more than 30 years, Jerry Keulen has farmed the fertile soils next to Boundary Bay. A second generation Delta farmer, Keulen runs Seabreeze Dairy Farm, where he grows forage grass and corn on his 60-hectare property, in addition to his dairy cows.

But as he looks upon the dike that skirts his property, he says he knows change is coming.

“Climate change,” he says. “The big concern is if the sea level rises, we’re in trouble. So how are we going to protect ourselves?”

Keulen, a member of Delta’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, was one of the local farmers who took part in the recent Agriculture and Climate Change Regional Adaptation Strategies pilot project.

The project brought together politicians and representatives from the agricultural industry to look at how farmland would be affected by climate change, and what could be done to mitigate those effects.

Among the threats to local agriculture were not only rising sea levels, but higher temperatures, increased extreme weather and rainfall, and increased salinity in the water table.

“Salinity really affects crop production,” says Keulen. “But we need to experiment and research how we can keep the salinity down, and that takes time.”

That’s why he says it’s important to start formulating an action plan sooner, rather than later.

“It’s important to be proactive,” says Keulen. “We have to prepare ourselves.”

The project, which was funded by the federal and provincial governments, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, and the Corporation of Delta, outlined a number recommendations to help protect Delta and its farmlands. In addition to dike and drainage upgrades and emergency planning for areas that may face inundation, the project also suggested more research and monitoring is needed to be done to properly assess the climate change risk.

It’s a risk that Keulen believes would be unwise to ignore.

According to Metro Vancouver climate projections, an increase in the mean annual temperature in Delta of 1.7 C, compared to the 1961-1990 baseline, is expected by the year 2050.

Developing new crop varieties that will be able to withstand the warmer weather and longer growing seasons, as well as the changing soil conditions, will be key to the survival of local farms.

“The land we farm is right next to the dike,” says Keulen. “If the sea level rises, if salt water starts coming over the dike, that’s going to impact us.”

However, climate change will impact far more in Delta than just the agricultural industry.

Dr. Stephen Sheppard is a UBC professor specializing in climate change and says many of the low-lying residential areas in Ladner are at the greatest risk of being inundated should rising sea levels breach the dikes that encircle Delta.

“Because of the high tidal range, much of Delta is already below sea level at high tide,” he says.

Provincial government guidelines for coastal communities warn of a sea level rise of up to 1.2 metres by the end of the century. But as the sea level is rising, Sheppard says the land that makes up Delta’s Fraser River floodplain is slowly sinking as it settles.

“Delta, because it’s a floodplain, and always flooded before, it could be at risk of flooding again [as sea levels rise],” he says.

To help drive the point home Sheppard has helped develop a video game that allows users to visualize the effects of climate change here in Delta, and see what methods of mitigation are most effective.

Called Future Delta, the computer simulation was developed by UBC’s Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning, working with the Corporation of Delta and the Delta School Board.

The game allows users to implement different strategies, from increasing dikes and drainage, to reducing the municipality’s carbon footprint in an effort to reduce the effects of climate change. Sheppard is also the author of Visualizing Climate Change. The book details the many possible effects of climate change on Delta, and is available through school and public libraries locally.

“None of the solutions are ideal, and all take a lot of time and money,” he says. “It’s not going to be a quick process, but that’s okay, there’s time. We have to be open to a wide range of possible options.”

Increased diking, for example, is costly, and would likely displace entire communities, such as the Port Guichon waterfront, which is built on the present dike, as well as damage the environmentally-sensitive foreshore area.

One of the more audacious – and expensive – ideas to protect Ladner Village is to dike off Canoe Pass and connect Westham Island to the mainland, while installing a tidal gate at the entrance to Ladner Harbour.

That’s why Delta mayor Lois Jackson says it’s important to study the potential problem before embarking on any costly remedies.

“We’re not going to run out and spend $1 billion on the dikes if we don’t have to,” she says.

The Corporation of Delta has been looking at the issue of climate change for past 10 years, taking part in numerous climate change studies and projects aimed identifying the likelihood of climate change impacts, and trying to find solutions.

“This has been on out radar for a very long time,” says Jackson. “A tremendous amount of work has already been.”

But just what path the Corporation will take will likely be left up to future mayors and councils, Jackson admits.

“Right now we are setting the groundwork for the future.”

Sheppard says its important to not only look at reactive measures, such as increased diking and drainage, but look at preventative ones as well.

Reducing its carbon footprint is one way the Corporation can help prevent climate change, even if it is on an admittedly small scale.

Many of the infrastructure upgrades that reduce carbon emissions by using less energy or generating power onsite, such as geothermal heating and solar technology, can save money in the long run.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” says Sheppard. “There’s the potential for economic gain. This is an opportunity.”

The Corporation of Delta has already endorsed the provincial guidelines to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

For now, Jackson says the first steps are to continue studying the gradual changes in local climate and continue to research the many options available.

“To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”


Interactive Web Interface For Sustainable Energy (IWISE)

This project will provide an interactive web-environment to communicate research products completed in the ongoing “Visualizing Urban Futures” project to prepare a Visual Primer on Community Energy. The web interface will broaden and deepen community engagement and social learning on critical issues related to community energy and land-use planning. The interactive web interface will be developed with partners and community members, and will allow users to better understand and explore emerging community energy issues. The project will have the following elements:

a) Content development – to enhance the current Community Energy Primer by expanding
coverage of neighbourhood retrofits and district energy systems. Comprising around 25% of the
project deliverable, this will provide citizens with easy-to-understand data and visualization
examples that are readily applicable to local communities.

b) Web development – an interactive interface incorporating the recently developed data and
visuals on community energy in the current Primer (a static pdf file report), presented through a
range of interactive communication media (text, graphics, animations, dynamic ‘fly-through’ 3D
visualizations, video, etc.) allowing users to choose media to suit their learning preferences and
further promote accessibility. Using the new HTML5 and other interactive presentation
software, the web version will provide queriable, interactive web-mapping of various regional
renewable energy supplies across Metro Vancouver, and allow users to calculate their own
community’s green energy capacity for the first time.

c) Expanded user-base – (i) In addition to local citizens, the project will support practitioners, cityplanners, municipal engineers, and other associates working on land-use planning and
community energy. It will provide a digital “template” for other communities beyond Metro
Vancouver and enable them to populate results by entering their respective data/numbers.
(ii) One of CALP’s parallel projects is the development of an educational ‘Future Delta’ video
game that demonstrates possible effects of climate change on the City of Delta and ways to
mitigate it. Outputs from the digital Primer will be integrated into the video game and thus
made accessible to youth across schools and colleges in Delta and more widely.

For more information on this project, please contact Dr. Stephen Sheppard at CALP.

Funded by: Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, the Neptis Foundation, and Metro Vancouver (2013 – 2015), and supported by our partner the City of Richmond.
Project Leader: Dr. Stephen Sheppard
UBC Researchers (CALP): Rory Tooke, Shirlene Cote, Sara Barron
UBC Students: TBD


Visualizing Urban Futures: Geomatics Decision Support For Canadian Urban Regions

CALP created the Illustrated Guide to Community Energy, which offers clear and compelling visuals of Metro Vancouver case studies, and new information on regional and local renewable energy resources. The Guide reveals how local involvement in community energy systems can promote more sustainable and secure energy futures, while reducing carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Its purpose is to assist municipal leaders and citizens in learning about energy options, stimulate discussion about energy choices and inspire using visual demonstrations of community energy scenarios.  

Click here to download the guide.  Coming soon: http://energyexplorer.ca/

Illustrated Guide

The Illustrated Guide to Community Energy has been developed by CALP and the Elements Lab in partnership with Metro Vancouver, citizens and staff of the City of Richmond, and the City of Surrey and with support from the Neptis Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and GEOIDE.  For more information on the Guide, please contact Rory Tooke at CALP.

(Production of this Guide was completed during the final phase of Visualising Urban Futures: Geomatics Decision Support For Canadian Urban Regions.  See below for more information on the initial project scope and research).


The need for Canada’s urban regions to become more sustainable in environmental, economic, and social terms has grown markedly over the past decade. In this light, a variety of provincial, metropolitan and local initiatives have been launched to address sector-specific, thematic dimensions of urban sustainability including urban sprawl (e.g. Ontario Places to Grow Act 2005), energy production and consumption (BC Bill 27 Green Communities 2007, Ontario Green Energy Act 2009) and transportation (e.g. Region of Waterloo Light Rapid Transit, Metrolinx Regional Transportation Plan). Such initiatives are transformative in nature, demand substantial realignment of public priorities and resource allocations and, ultimately, are implemented, planned and managed at local and regional scales, with local implications for neighbourhood livability and functionality.

This project will address these needs by producing “digital stories based in data”, based on interactive scenario exploration tools and methods that link future land use choices, transportation infrastructure, energy and climate change (GHG) strategies. Specifically, the project proposes to develop and test a suite of prototype web-based “spatial dashboard” decision tools, coupled with immersive geovisualization environments, to foster information-rich and scenario-based exploration of land use and select urban sustainability issues. The tools will be applied to three interrelated problem domains highly relevant in the Canadian urban context: a) urban intensification and land use change, b) transportation systems, and c) urban energy demand, renewable energy potential, and GHG emissions reductions.

This project will seek to overcome this barrier in three key ways. First, a multi-scale approach will be adopted to permit neighbourhood level changes to land use, transportation and energy use / generation to be understood in light of regional land use/transportation systems. Second, development and evaluation of the tools and use protocols will be conducted across the urban regions of Toronto, Vancouver and Waterloo, with some variation for local concerns and expertise, in order to ensure transferability of research outputs. Finally, our research will be anchored in practice through deep involvement of key local and regional partners (e.g. Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority, Metro Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Waterloo Region, Toronto District School Board), working closely with NEPTIS on overall tool development and usability. Thus, end-user engagement is a cross-cutting dimension of this project, involving a spectrum of local decision makers, domain experts, and interested citizens, that will ensure the research is relevant to practice.

Read the 2011 GEOIDE Progress Report for this project TSII-201.  Please contact Rory Tooke at CALP for more information.

Funded by: GEOIDE Networks of Centres of Excellence/Neptis Foundation (2011 – 2013) (Phase IV Project:  TSII-201)
and supported by other funding partners:  Vancouver Foundation; MetroVancouver; and Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.
Project Leader: Dr. Stephen Sheppard
UBC Researchers (CALP):  Sara Barron and Shirlene Cote
UBC Researchers (Elements Lab) Dr. Ron Kellett and Dr. Cynthia Girling
UBC Students:  Rory Tooke, Lukas Holy, Kevin Zhang, Glenis Canete
CALP Affiliates: Ellen Pond and David Flanders

Sara Barron wins the world’s largest forestry scholarship

From promoting recovery in hospitals to reducing stress, there is growing evidence that nature plays an important role in our well-being. But according to Sara Barron, suburban communities are going to need more than a few tree-lined streets to be effective.

“People are scared of density,” says Barron, who will begin her PhD research in the Faculty of Forestry in May. “But if you integrate trees and natural spaces within dense areas, it makes neighbourhoods more livable.”

Barron is the winner of the Future Forests Fellowship, the world’s largest scholarship for forestry research. She will receive up to $240,000—$60,000 annually for up to four years—to study how urban planners can design or retrofit suburbs to balance natural forest environments with the higher density housing that is required to reduce carbon footprints.  Read the full article in UBC Reports

Local Climate Change Visioning Online Training Modules

These training modules are designed to enable users across Canada to develop their own local scenarios, identify relevant spatial data, assess visualization needs, and determine visualization media and production methods for local implementation. These training modules incorporate Delta RAC, and other prior CALP visualization materials.  Please refer to CALP’s Guidance Manual and the Delta RAC Sea Level Rise Adaptation website for more information.

We hope that the modules will enable more rapid uptake of processes and tools that enhance public engagement, policy development, and decision support around climate change issues.

Training Module 1 Spatial & Local Scenario Building aims to help users develop local scenarios to help take climate change into account for community planning. Scenarios_Module_Final_web

Training Module 2 Data Integration aims to help users identify, access and develop data, including spatial data, for the purposes of scenario building and visualization, and how to integrate these into a local climate change planning process. Data_Module_Final

Training Module 3 Visualization Design & Production aims to help users assess their visualization needs and determine the appropriate visualization media and production methods for local implementation. Visualization_Module_Final_web

These training modules were made possible by support and funding from Natural Resources Canada (Regional Adaptation Collaborative) and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (2012)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephen Sheppard
CALP Researchers: Sara Barron
CALP Affiliates: Ellen Pond, David Flanders

Climate change is here, bringing unprecedented challenges, but also new opportunities.  One group that CALP works with is SFU’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT).  This group equips decision-makers with resources that will assist industry, governments, and communities to adapt to the impacts.  Visit their website for more information.

CALP’s Visioning Guidance Manual

CALP’s Local Climate Change Visioning and Landscape Visualizations: Guidance Manual (Version 1.1) was finalized in July 2010 and now available in published and digital form.  This guide is intended to be used by local communities: decision-makers/practitioners, sustainability citizen groups, consultants, and others, to help develop resilient local communities in an uncertain climate change future.  The printing of this manual was made possible by funding from the Climate Action Secretariat and Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.  Read more about how our guide is being used by local governments.

Full reference:  Pond, Ellen, Olaf Schroth, Stephen Sheppard, Sara Muir-Owen, Ingrid Lipa, Cam Campbell, Jon Salter, Kristi Tatebe and David Flanders.  2010.  Local Climate Change Visioning and Landscape Visualizations: Guidance Manual (Version 1.1). Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning, University of  BC. (25 MB pdf download: CALP Visioning Guidance Manual Version 1.1) or download a 5 page Executive Summary  of the Guidance Manual (1.66MB pdf).

Visualizing Climate Change – A guide to visual communication of climate change & developing local solutions

Carbon dioxide and global climate change are largely invisible, and the prevailing imagery of climate change is often remote (such as ice floes melting) or abstract and scientific (charts and global temperature maps).  Using dramatic visual imagery such as 3D and 4D visualizations of future landscapes, community mapping, and iconic photographs, this book by Dr. Stephen R.J. Sheppard, demonstrates new ways to make carbon and climate change visible where we care the most, in our own backyards and local communities. Extensive color imagery explains how climate change works where we live, and reveals how we often conceal, misinterpret, or overlook the evidence of climate change impacts and our carbon usage that causes them.

This guide to using visual media in communicating climate change vividly brings to life both the science and the practical solutions for climate change, such as local renewable energy and flood protection. It introduces powerful new visual tools (from outdoor signs to video-games) for communities, action groups, planners, and other experts to use in engaging the public, building awareness and accelerating action on the world’s greatest crisis.

This book recently received a review by ICLEI and was assigned the title ‘Book of the Month’ status.
The review was published in the November ICLEI in Europe eNewsletter and can be found under item number ten

Books are available at UBC Bookstore and can also be ordered online at www.routledge.com/books/details/9781844078202