Climate Change Adaptation
Communities across Canada are already dealing with the impact of climate change. Some communities are facing increased drought; others, more intense storms. Shorter, warmer winters are leading to more coastal erosion and infrastructure damage, as protective coastal ice is lost. Cities are also dealing with blights to their municipal treelines as invasive pests, normally controlled by cold weather, are able to thrive. Weather-related emergencies such as heatwaves, smog days, and forest fires are on the rise. These effects will cost cities millions of dollars, and adaptation to these effects will be expected by the community.
Spotlight on Adaptation and Infrastructure
Canada's infrastructure deficit is significant, and the ongoing impact of climate change is expected to increase this deficit by shortening asset-replacement cycles.
In Canada's North, where the impact of climate change is most severe, the infrastructure deficit is expected to double. It is estimated that adapting buildings in the Northwest Territories alone could cost $230 million: more than $5,000 for every man, woman and child in the Territories. Inuvik alone is facing costs of $140 million to repair buildings affected by the disappearance of permafrost. The economic impact is also staggering, as the loss of ice roads cost northern employers millions in transportation costs, while further isolating northern communities.
In its report Paying the Price: the Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy suggested that the economic impact on Canada could reach:
- $5 billion per year by 2020
- Between $21 and $43 billion per year by 2050
For more information, please see their full report and executive summary.
It is never too soon for municipalities to begin assessing their vulnerability to climate-change impacts that are already occurring, and to develop responses that protect their citizens, the local environment and the local economy.
Climate-change adaptation could save Canadians billions of dollars, and position our economy to provide solutions for a challenge that will soon face communities around the world.
Canada's new long-term infrastructure plan will be an opportunity for us to make climate resilience part of the future for Canada's infrastructure.
More on Adaptation
Changes in average weather conditions influence our economy, society and infrastructure. How climate change will affect local governments will vary across different landscapes, communities and economies. Adaptation refers to any modification in a system or process by which communities prepare to cope with an uncertain future climate.
Local governments play key roles in preparing and positioning their communities in order to build resilience and to establish the right conditions for adaptation. By investing in adaptive capacity early on, local governments can greatly influence their ability to decrease vulnerability to future climate change, and increase the climate resilience of their economies.
A variety of resources developed by leading organizations across Canada is available to assist municipalities in understanding adaptation, potential vulnerabilities, and how to plan for and respond to climate change.