The federal government has released Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation, which is a follow up to their 2008 science assessment report, From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate. The development of the report was led by Natural Resources Canada, and included more than 90 authors and 115 expert reviewers who synthesized over 1,500 publications. Since the release of From Impacts to Adaptation, understanding of climate change and adaptation has grown based on new research and real-world experiences – this is reflected in the new report.
Unlike the 2008 report, which had a regional focus, Canada in a Changing Climate applies a sectoral lens to climate change impacts and adaptation. Highlights from each sector covered in the report include:
Natural Resources (Forestry, Energy, and Mining)
Existing climate risks relating to the planning and management of natural resources will be exacerbated by climate change. Risks include natural hazards linked to climate extremes (e.g. heat, precipitation) and to gradual changes (e.g. permafrost degradation, sea level rise). However, climate change will also create new opportunities in the natural resource sectors, namely in relation to northern development.
The impacts of climate change vary between agriculture, fisheries, and non-commercial food supply, however they share some common challenges, such as invasive pests and diseases and threats to transportation systems upon which the sectors rely.
Changes to industry practices have mainly been reactive (i.e. responding to variation in weather or extreme events after the fact), as opposed to proactively changing behaviours in anticipation of future climate change.
Biodiversity and Protected Areas
Current and projected rates of environmental changes are exceeding the natural ability of some species to adapt, increasing stress and threatening biodiversity. As such, climate change is highlighting the need to manage ecosystems in a way that improves resilience and preserves biodiversity.
Various climate-related natural hazards are perpetually affecting communities, presenting heightened risks to future health. Recent flooding and wildfire events have caused serious damage to communities by destroying infrastructure and displacing populations. Adaptation initiatives such as heat alert and response systems, projections of vector-borne disease expansion, and greening urban environments can help protect the Canadian public from the current and future impacts of climate change.
Water and Transportation Infrastructure
Infrastructure that is well-maintained is more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, especially gradual changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. The main vulnerabilities are linked to the impacts of extreme weather events that overwhelm the capacity of water infrastructure.
The report concludes with a chapter about linking research and practice. One key finding is that adaptation is being undertaken in Canada to increase capacity to adapt, improve resilience to climate events (notably extremes), and enhance the ability to deal with different climate conditions. Among sectors, those that are clearly highly sensitive and exposed to climate and weather tend to be the most active in taking steps to understand, assess, and manage vulnerability and risk related to climate change.
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