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Playing out future flooding scenarios

New video game will give local students a chance to look at the possible implications of climate change

A video game is being developed that will enable local students to play out various flooding scenarios in Delta's future.

Future Delta 2.0 is a video game project led by Dr. Stephen Sheppard at UBC and Dr. Aleksandra Dulic of UBC-Okanagan.

Having elements similar the interactive city-building game Sim City, the game will enable players to become city planners dealing with the implications of global warming and sea level rise.

"The video game is initially, at least, for high school kids," said Sheppard, director of UBC's Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP). "Working with some schools in Delta, it's very early in the life of this project. We were funded to work on a climate change video game that was to be a place-based game in Delta, so Delta people and Delta school kids would play the game and they would see places they know and recognize.

"It would also deal with other kinds of issues, including sea level rise and its effects on farming, and also how people respond in terms of community energy and renewable energy, cutting their carbon footprints and what their community would look like. It's to be a fun game that's educational for students who are studying climate change in their curriculum and in sciences classes. It would make it meaningful for them but also fun," he explained.

Sheppard said students are being asked to provide input in the early prototype and help design the game. He's hoping a final version will be ready to play later in 2013.

Delta has been working with CALP in an ongoing project that uses computer modeling to show what parts of the municipality could look like by 2100 due to sea level rise.

CALP completed its first Delta climate visualization project in 2008, focusing on Beach Grove. More visualizations made last year show the possible futures of the River Road West and other neighbourhoods.

Sheppard made a presentation to Delta council last year, noting that approximately 25,000 people live in rural Delta and Ladner, which makes up much of the low-lying areas vulnerable to sea level rise.

Delta has approximately 60 kilometres of perimeter dikes and seawalls that protect its lowland areas. Showing potential solutions, the computer visualizations are intended to assist future decision makers with the understanding of the implications of climate change.

Sheppard told the Optimist he was not surprised by the conclusions in a report recently released by the B.C. government, which estimated combating rising sea levels due to global warming could cost $9.5 billion in diking improvements by 2100 in Metro Vancouver.

The report, Cost of Adaptation - Sea Dikes and Alternative Strategies, looked at cost estimates, including design, project management, land acquisition, environmental mitigation, impacts on utilities and pump stations as well as other factors.

That report follows another by government in 2011 called Climate Change Adaptation Guidelines for Sea Dikes and Coastal Flood Hazard Land Use, which predicted a sea level rise of one metre along B.C.'s coast by the beginning of the next century.

At the 2011 Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, a motion by Delta was endorsed calling on the senior governments to work together to develop a funding program to assist coastal communities with flood protection.

The submission states, "Local governments in the Lower Mainland have limited economic resources. Many do not have the financial capacity to fund large-scale adaption projects. For seaside communities, these types of adaption projects will involve dike/seawall upgrades, improvements to foreshore protection, and land use planning and food level policy changes."