Climate Change Adaptation
Adaptation to climate change is any activity that reduces the negative impacts of a changing climate and/or takes advantage of the new opportunities that may emerge due to these changes. Successful adaptation does not mean that the negative impacts of climate change will not be felt; only that its effects will be less severe compared to what would be experienced had no adaptation occurred.
Adaptation is not a new concept: Canadians have developed many approaches to effectively deal with the extremely variable climate. However, the amount and rate of future climate change will pose some new challenges. The fact that science now allows communities to anticipate a range of potential climate conditions, and therefore take action before the worst impacts are incurred, makes adaptation to future climate change different from how Canadians have adapted historically.
The Adaptation Process – Stages and Steps
Planned adaptation goes through four basic steps:
- Understanding and raising awareness of the risks posed by climate change and its potential impacts.
- Developing a plan for how to reduce these impacts.
- Implementing the planned adaptation actions.
- Monitoring the effectiveness of implemented actions and learning from this experience.
The cycle is then repeated—as climate change adaptation is an ongoing, iterative process.
There are many different sectors of focus for adaptation, and the list below provides a few to consider.
Climate models show the cold season will shrink, leaving a longer growing season. But with that possibly good news comes an increase in high temperature events and changes in precipitation patterns – especially the increasing likelihood of flooding and drought in the same year – which will require farmers to make significant changes, identify emerging opportunities, and assess ways to increase resilience.
Coastal communities in Atlantic Canada may be harder impacted than most due to rising sea level, erosion, and flooding from storm surges.
There is a major risk of saltwater intrusion in many coastal communities in Atlantic Canada, especially in Prince Edward Island, which is entirely dependent upon groundwater to supply potable water.
Health and Well-Being
Climate change is not just an environmental and economic threat. It is also a threat to public health and wellbeing. Changes in our climate are already affecting the health of people living in Canada.
In Atlantic Canada, coastal erosion, storm surges, ice storms, and inland flooding in particular have required residents and businesses to address risks.
Climate change is already impacting many physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of our society we rely on to live in Atlantic Canada. It is key to ensure new infrastructure and community developments are designed to withstand risks of damage due to climate change impacts such as flooding.
Land & Forests
The distribution of native species in Atlantic Canada’s forests is expected to shift with future climate change and it will be important for land owners and resource users to adapt to these changes.
How we manage land and forests is not only paramount to climate change mitigation, but it has major opportunities to increase resilience and abilities to adapt. It is key these changes are informed by clear evidence and data using climate risk assessments that encourage appropriate adaptation measures.
Local governments have a unique and critical role to play in managing the risks of a changing climate. The local nature of many climate impacts means that municipalities are often on the front line of the impacts, and they need to ensure effective management of risks, protect community safety and promote economic sustainability.
Municipalities are well positioned to implement adaptation measures, particularly through processes such as land use planning, community energy planning and mechanisms like zoning or permit regulations. For many communities, changes in climate variability, as reflected in less predictable weather events, may represent a greater challenge for planning than will changes in average climatic conditions.
Nature-based solutions are a suite of protection, improved management, and restoration actions in forests, grasslands, agricultural areas and wetlands that provide both climate mitigation and adaptation benefits.
Approaches focused on restoring and protecting natural areas can pay dividends in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Forests, wetlands, dunes, and other natural or restored ecosystems help increase communities’ resilience to climate change. Nature-based solutions are largely inexpensive, do not require large and expensive engineering approaches, and have side benefits of increasing biodiversity and drawing down carbon.
Ocean & Marine Work
The impacts of climate change on Canada’s coasts, which extend far beyond changes in sea level, present both challenges and potential opportunities for coastal communities, ecosystems and economic activities. How we adapt to the coming changes will be critical to the sustainability and continued prosperity of Atlantic Canada’s coasts.
Tourism is vital to Atlantic Canada and every coastal community. Climate change can impact decisions on vacationing both negatively and positively. Beach narrowing from sea-level rise, coastal erosion and storm events may affect access to the coast and limit tourist beach activities. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, can dampen vacation plans and damage tourism infrastructure. Even Atlantic Canada’s small but vibrant winter tourism sector may be negatively impacted by climate change with milder winters.