HOW TO ADAPT!
What is Climate Change Adaptation?
To adapt is to adjust oneself to different conditions, circumstances or environments. Within climate change literature, adaptation is understood as the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climate conditions or effects. It has become clear that as a result of climate change there will be significant economic, social and environmental impacts on global and local communities.
“Adaptation needs arise when the anticipated risks or experienced impacts of climate change require action to ensure the safety of populations and the security of assets, including ecosystems and their services (medium evidence, medium agreement). Adaptation needs are the gap between what might happen as the climate changes and what we would desire to happen.” (IPCC)
Natural Resources Canada defines climate change adaptation as “actions that reduce the negative impact of climate change, while taking advantage of potential new opportunities. It involves adjusting policies and actions because of observed or expected changes in climate.”
The long and short of it is that we can and should try to reduce our carbon footprint, but we must also be prepared for the environmental effects that climate change will have on our water, coasts, forests and wildlife. We must think ahead
and make efforts to adapt to the damages and impacts that result from climate change. Adaptation is, therefore, a crucial component of Climate Action Powell River’s climate action plan.
Canadian communities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to a range of climatic changes: Average temperatures are rising, precipitation patterns are becoming more erratic, snow and ice cover is declining, and the frequency of natural disasters, such as storms, wildfires and floods is growing. If left unchecked, the impacts of further warming on human and environmental systems will be profound.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report notes: “There is high confidence that neither adaptation nor mitigation alone can avoid all climate change impacts; however, they can complement each other and together can significantly reduce the risks of climate change.”
This is why responding to climate change must occur at all levels of government, including local governments. The impacts of a changing climate will be experienced at the local level first. Therefore, local governments have to take a responsible leadership role in responding to these changes. CAPR is working with the city of Powell River and the Powell River Regional District to help citizens and businesses become more aware of and better prepared for climate change events and consequences.
There are three key elements to enhancing our adaptive capacity and increasing our resilience to climate change:
1. Knowledge: We must make ourselves aware of the science and the facts on the ground at the global and local level. The more we know the more comprehensively we can assess how best to adapt to the risks associated with climate change.
2. Risk Management: We must put in place practical and flexible risk reduction strategies and programs. These latter will take into account issues of community health and wellbeing, infrastructure, water, natural resources and ecosystems. Risks are perceived, ranked and assessed differently depending on geographic location, values and goals.
3. Innovation: Adaptation is innovation. We can reduce our vulnerability to forest fire, heatwaves, the impact of severe storms, flooding and protecting fish and fragile coastal eco-systems with innovative and adaptive solutions. These will include structural, technological, institutional and communal-relational innovations and solutions. For example, building environmentally sustainable sea walls to combat sea level rise, developing new drought resistant crops to maintain productive agricultural systems, and investing in cutting-edge communications infrastructure to facilitate rapid emergency responses.
We have more awareness and scientific literature on the effects of climate change than ever before in history. There are multiple lines of scientific evidence showing that the earth is warming due to human activity. We have also witnessed in the past 10 years an unprecedented number of extreme climate events in regions all over the planet. This combination of increased theoretical scientific understanding and observed extreme weather trends demonstrates the risks associated with climate change. Understanding of extreme
events and their interactions with climate change is particularly important for managing risks in a regional context. Even more important is understanding that the risk of extreme weather events will dramatically increase if the Paris Agreement goals are not met.
That is where CAPR comes in. As a society that strives to bridge the latest science on climate change with decision-making at the community, municipal and regional levels CAPR will play a key role in communicating adaptation strategies and helping citizens of Powell River understand how to adapt to and reduce the impact of climate change events. The effectiveness and efficiency of adaptation strategies can be significantly improved with more and better information.
Assessing and Managing Risks
The advantages of managing climate risks are significant – from healthy communities, sustainable agriculture, and stable livelihoods to resilient forests and protected ecosystems. This will involve identifying projected bio-physical, social and economic impacts, estimating costs and benefits of action, and identifying initial priorities for action. There are areas in BC that will be much more at risk so it is essential that these regions be identified and measures taken to support their needs. Understanding risks and collaborating with those best able to manage them is an important first step. This will involve Governments, businesses and citizens.
There are a number of projected impacts we must be aware of in the next few years. Among these latter are:
Temperature increase of 1.3 to 2.7 °C expected by 2050, with projected impacts including:
- Growing seasons that are longer though hampered by more frequent and severe droughts
- Shifting infectious diseases and pests with effects to our health, agriculture and ecosystems
- More frequent and severe heat waves resulting in increased heat-related illnesses
Average annual rainfall is expected to increase from 2% to 12% by 2050 though summers will be drier, with projected impacts including:
- Increased frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation resulting in damage to buildings and infrastructure
- Higher risk of wildfires, insect outbreaks and diseases in our forests
- Farmers and ranchers experiencing more frequent and severe droughts, soil erosion and new pests
Up to 70% of our glaciers may have disappeared by 2100, expected to result in:
- Changes in river flows and temperature affecting fish habitat and hydroelectric power generation
- Drinking water decreasing in quality and quantity
- Water shortages increasing competition between various water users
Sea level is expected to continue to rise along most of B.C.’s coast, with projected impacts including:
- Coastal communities and ecosystems seeing more frequent and severe flooding
- Rising sea levels straining drainage and sewages systems, and intruding into groundwater aquifers
- Low-lying agricultural lands becoming too saline for cultivation
Innovation is the key to addressing climate change. We need more than ever to come up with new strategies, ways of thinking and cost-effective technologies. CAPR is committed to helping citizens, businesses and governments better understand their carbon footprint and encourage practical and innovative approaches to adapting to climate change. One of the ways we can achieve this is through funding.
The Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP) is a conditional grant program that provides funding to local governments who have signed on to the B.C. the Climate Action Charter. Powell River and the Powell River Regional District are signatories to this charter. We have received funding that will help us to bring knowledge about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help our community prepare for the future and realize our climate action goals in innovative and creative ways. Read the Powell River Sustainability Charter here.
Adaptation Initiatives in British Columbia
British Columbia has first-hand knowledge of the impacts of climate change: average temperatures are increasing, sea levels are rising, and variable and extreme weather is becoming more frequent.
We have lately experienced the worst wildfire season on record. Since April 1, 2017, 1,105 wildfires have razed approximately 10,114 square kilometres of British Columbia. More than 45,000 people have been displaced by the fires this summer, and approximately 2,500 people remain evacuated from their homes, with 154 fires continuing to burn. So far this season, wildfires have cost the province $309 million, five times greater than the amount budgeted.
But the good news is that BC has a Climate Adaptation Strategy and Powell River has a Sustainability Charter and the Powell River Regional district has through the BARC Program are taking innovative actions that will help make us less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change
Tools and Guides
The Tools and Guides below provide us with a practical, step-wise approach to assess risks and opportunities from a changing climate and give some guidance for planning and implementing adaptations.
They can be used for a variety of purposes from a high-level review of risks and opportunities, to detailed planning or preparation of a business case.
They were developed with the support of, or created by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)
- Adaptation Planning
- Coastal Management
- Risk Assessment
- Water management
- Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation
- Training Products
- Using Climate Information
Recent Adaptation and Climate Reports:
From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate
Climate Risks and Adaptation Practices for the Transportation Sector
Canada’s Marine Coasts in a Changing Climate http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/earthsciences/pdf/assess/2016/Coastal_Assessment_FullReport.pdf
Links to Adaptation Sites
The Climate Change Adaptation Community of Practice (CCACoP) is an interactive online community dedicated to advancing knowledge and action in the area of climate change adaptation.
ReTooling for Climate Change is a place where you will find tools and resources for BC local governments, First Nations and the natural resource sectors as everyone prepares for the impacts of climate change, now and in the years ahead.
UNESCO has an interesting climate change adaptation website based on traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic and Far North.
The Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT) is a university-based think tank in British Columbia dedicated to climate change adaptation. ACT “brings leading experts from around the world together with industry, community, and government decision-makers to explore the risks posed by top-of-mind climate change issues and identify opportunities for sustainable adaptation.”
Engineers and geoscientists of British Columbia have a climate change information portal here