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Adaptation - Synthesis

Some adaptation is occurring in Canada, both in response to, and in anticipation of, climate change impacts.

The regional chapters of this assessment note that some adaptation is already taking place in Canada. Adaptation initiatives have been undertaken at scales ranging from individuals and community groups to industry and governments (see Table SR-5 for examples). Much of this adaptation has been achieved through informal actions or strategies in response to specific events or circumstances, and where the capacity to take action existed (Chapters 4, 6, 8 and 10). There are also some examples of policy initiatives that provide a more structured approach to adaptation, such as the New Brunswick Coastal Areas Protection Policy (Chapter 4) and British Columbia Future Forests Ecosystem Initiative (Chapter 8).

Table SR-5: Selected examples of adaptation initiatives undertaken by individuals, community groups, industry and governments in Canada.
Actor Example Chapter
Individuals northerners are more frequently using insect repellents, bug nets and window screens to deal with the increased proliferation of insects. 3
Individuals hunters in the arctic have increased use of global positioning systems to assist navigation in unpredictable or challenging weather. 3
Individuals homes and cottages are being built farther back from the coast. 4
Individuals residents of remote coastal communities are better prepared for shortages (i.e., power, food, transportation) due to recent experience with inclement weather conditions. 8
Community groups and organizations the community of Arctic Bay, NU, has shifted a portion of its narwhal quota from spring to summer hunts to reduce risks associated with ice break-up conditions, and to increase chances of hunting success. 3
Community groups and organizations residents of Pointe-du-Chêne, NB organized an emergency shelter in response to increasing flooding risk, and lobbied elected officials for less vulnerable road access. 4
Community groups and organizations a community group in Annapolis Royal NS undertook mapping of potential storm surges that has resulted in revision of emergency measures. 4
Industry thermosyphons have been used in the construction of several major infrastructure projects in the North to induce artificial cooling of permafrost under warming conditions. 3
Industry agricultural producers purchase crop insurance to offset losses caused by inclement weather. 6, 7, 8
Industry Hydro Québec has modified its forecasts of electricity demands based on new climate scenarios. 5
Industry some forestry companies have started using high-flotation tires on their vehicles to help navigate wet or washed-out conditions, allowing them to work in a wider range of weather conditions. 7
Governments the forest industry in Central BC is seeking to extract as much merchantable timber from forests affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic as possible. Industry is also attempting to develop alternative markets for beetle killed wood . 8
Governments the municipality of Sept-Iles has regulated new residential construction along the shoreline to prevent damages due to shoreline erosion. 5
Governments Westbank, BC, has included climate change in the Trepanier Landscape Unit Water Management Plan. 8
Governments the town of Vanderhoof, BC is engaged in a vulnerability assessment pilot project with the Canadian Forest Service with a specific goal of being able to plan adaptation to climate change. 8
Governments Water meters have been installed in the Southeast Kelowna Irrigation District and several Canadian cities (e.g. Kelowna, BC; Sudbury, ON; and Moncton, NB) to reduce water consumption. 4, 6, 8
Governments Regina, SK has increased urban water conservation efforts. 7
Governments Smog and heat-health warning systems have been implemented in Toronto, ON, and Montréal, QC. 5, 6
Governments Greater Vancouver Regional District is considering the impact of smaller snowpack on city water supplies in planning storage capacity management and upgrades. 8
Governments Newfoundland is undertaking a thorough review of emergency management practices and response mechanisms. 4
Governments New Brunswick's Coastal Areas Protection Policy establishes set-backs for permanent structures and could facilitate planned retreat 4
Governments Alberta's Water for Life Strategy addresses climate change impacts in areas that are currently water-stressed. 7
Governments British Columbia's Future Forests Ecosystem Initiative incorporates climate change adaptation into forest management 8
Governments research and networking supported through a range of federal, provincial and territorial programs 10

Several adaptation initiatives address current risks and take into account the likely impacts of future climate change. These include most major new infrastructure development in northern Canada, such as mine sites, pipelines and large buildings, where adaptive solutions include the use of thermosyphons to induce artificial cooling of permafrost under warming conditions (Chapter 3). Other examples are the Toronto Hot Weather Response Plan and similar heat-health alert initiatives in other urban areas of Ontario and Quebec (Chapter 5 and 6). The Toronto plan was first developed in response to increasingly hot summers during the 1990s, and the devastating health impacts of heat waves elsewhere in North America. Since its introduction in 1999, the Toronto plan has been continually monitored, evaluated and refined, demonstrating that effective adaptation is a continuing process, which will often involve more than a single action.

Integrating climate change into existing planning processes is an effective approach to adaptation.

Rather than dealing with adaptation in isolation from other factors, integrating (mainstreaming) climate change into ongoing planning and policy decision-making can provide efficiencies in the use of both financial and human resources (Adger et al., 2007; Klein et al., 2007). In such cases, climate change represents one of many factors to be considered in decision-making. Examples of opportunities for mainstreaming, some of which are taking place at a very limited scale, include using recent climate trends and future projections to update building codes and standards to reduce infrastructure vulnerability (Chapter 6), factoring sea-level rise into coastal development planning (Chapter 4), considering the hydrological impacts of climate change on water supply and demand in water and energy conservation initiatives (Chapters 5, 6 and 8) and considering climate change impacts in the environmental assessment process for major development projects (Chapter 3). There are also a large number of programs and policies in the development or review phases dealing with natural resource management, land-use planning, and other climate-sensitive issues that provide ideal opportunities for mainstreaming of climate change adaptation (Chapter 6).

Risk management approaches help decision-makers deal with the uncertainties associated with climate change.

Making decisions regarding adaptation requires dealing with uncertainty. There are uncertainties inherent in projections of future climate, the impacts of these changes and future socioeconomic conditions (which strongly affect adaptive capacity). Risk management provides a means for dealing with these uncertainties in a manner routinely used for non-climatic factors. It offers a practical and credible approach (Figure SR-5) that is well understood by decision-makers for defining measures to achieve acceptable levels of societal risk, and is currently used in many professional fields. Examples of existing risk-based tools to support climate change adaptation include a screening tool for engineered facilities in permafrost terrain that has been used in many northern infrastructure projects since the late 1990s (Chapter 3), and a risk-based guide for supporting adaptation decision-making, which has recently been developed for Ontario municipalities (Chapter 6).

Figure SR-5

Figure SR-5: Steps in the risk management process (Bruce et al., 2006).

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