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The impacts of changing climate are already evident in Canada and globally. Scientific understanding of climate change indicates that Canada will experience significant shifts in weather patterns over the period of a single generation, a trend that will likely continue for several centuries. Communities of all sizes will face many new risks and opportunities. Managing the impacts of a changing climate will require developing local strategies.

The anticipated impacts of climate change include drought; reduced quality of surface waters; a higher incidence of vector-borne diseases; more frequent heat waves resulting in reduced air quality and high human discomfort in urban centres; and an increase in storm surge flooding in coastal regions. For many municipalities, the change in the frequency and severity of extremes in weather – such as intense precipitation, heavy winds or ice storms, as well as seasonal variations in the water supply – are a major concern. The greatest warming is expected to occur in the North. Resource-based and Aboriginal communities, which generally have economies closely tied to the natural environment and local climate variability, are particularly vulnerable.

Anticipating the effects of climate change and taking actions before major impacts occur is an effective strategy to manage climate risk and reduce a community’s overall vulnerability. Adaptation involves making changes in decisions, activities and thinking in response to observed or expected changes in climate. Governments, individuals, industry and community groups can all take adaptive actions to reduce potential harm and to take advantage of new opportunities. Possible adaptation actions are tremendously wide ranging and may involve using new technologies, adjusting planning and investment practices, and revising regulations. Adaptation measures can also help achieve other municipal sustainability goals and should not be considered only as stand-alone actions to address climate change.

This book is an update and expansion of the document published in 2006 by the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network (Mehdi, 2006) under the same title. It provides municipal decision-makers and staff with information to help them understand the need for climate change adaptation and how to put adaptation measures in place. The book also refers to other guides that can help municipalities identify and address risks and opportunities, and to case studies that illustrate how municipalities of varying sizes from across the country are taking action now.

Each case study outlines the impact of changing climate on the community, the catalyst for developing a plan, the plan-making process, measures adopted, next steps and lessons learned. The case studies illustrate the value in collaborating with non-traditional partners and demonstrate practical measures that other municipalities facing similar issues might take to enhance community resilience in the face of a changing climate.

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