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Heat surges cause increase in hydro costs for the U of O

Daniel LeRoy | Fulcrum Staff

Illustration by Tina Wallace

LAST MONTH, CALGARY floods displaced thousands of people, and this past week, Albertan premier Allison Redford released the most recent damage estimate. Across Alberta, the flood damage will exceed $3 billion. On July 8—two weeks after the Calgary floods—Toronto experienced flooding of its own, trapping trains and cars mid-transit. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford expects the city’s damages to top $600 million.

Extreme weather conditions have affected Ottawa as well, with heat surges during the day followed by drastic drops in temperature overnight. On campus, according to the Office of Campus Sustainability, the number of hot days a year is significantly higher than it was a decade ago. With an increased need for air conditioning, hydro costs have skyrocketed.

“Global warming makes this something that we can increasingly expect,” said Jonathan Rausseo, manager of the University of Ottawa’s Office of Campus Sustainability.

Rausseo did however express that his profession is unwilling to definitively state that the recent floods are caused by global warming. Scientifically speaking, it is impossible to draw a direct correlation between the increasing number of natural disasters, extreme weather, and carbon increases. There is no evidence to prove that a specific increase in carbon emissions will necessarily cause a flood or other extreme weather conditions.

Rausseo and the Office of Campus Sustainability take an optimistic approach toward mending the environment, compared to those of fatalism and resignation often seen amongst other environmental scientists.

“[We] don’t like sitting on the side of the argument that it’s too late,” said Rausseo.

He pointed out that the increasing number of natural disasters could explain the irreversible damage that has been done to the environment, and that research should be done on new types of crops that could grow in more volatile conditions. City boundaries should be redefined to avoid the increasingly susceptible food plains.

As for the long-term sustainability of the U of O campus, the lack of stability in temperatures has a pervasive wearing effect on its buildings. The more the temperature rises, drops, and rises again, the more the liquid on the surface of buildings expands and retracts, aging the buildings prematurely.

“I think global warming is a highly controversial topic, and there are intelligent people arguing both sides,” said Adib Alakel, a fourth-year psychology student at the U of O. “But I don’t think it is something we should be constantly worrying about. I believe most of the problem is that a lot of people got used to the comfort of thermostats and air-conditioned malls–so much so that any slight offset in temperature is now a news topic.”

A recent Forum Research poll following the Alberta and Toronto floods showed that 53 per cent of Canadians believe that global warming caused these disasters, and that eight out of 10 believe that the environment is changing even if these disasters were random occurrences.