Canadian Climate Impacts
& Adaptation Research Network
Atlantic Region of the Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation
Research Network (C-CIARN Atlantic) will hold a two-day workshop in
June on adapting to climate change.
will present examples of climate change vulnerabilities and
adaptation opportunities, with focus on communities, municipalities,
infrastructure, and transportation systems. Other presentations will
include the economics of adaptation and funding opportunities.
Stakeholders will respond to these presentations in the context of
how they see adaptation fitting into their areas of responsibility.
Workshop participants will then participate in a project planning
exercise to learn how to plan adaptation projects.
public lecture the night before the workshop (June 11) will bring
participants up to speed on the vulnerability of Atlantic Canada to
climate change impacts. A public walking tour the evening of June 12
will highlight some of the areas of downtown Charlottetown
that are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surges.
information, including a registration form, is available
on the web. Feel free to contact C-CIARN Atlantic with any
questions you may have.
The Road Ahead -
Adapting to Climate Change
in Atlantic Canada
Kyle McKenzie &
Canadian Climate Impacts
Adaptation Research Network
concentrations of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are believed to
be changing our climate in unprecedented ways. Even with the intended
reductions of the Kyoto Protocol, greenhouse gas concentrations will
continue to rise and our climate will continue to change over the next
Because resource based economies are likely to be
harder hit than industrial economies, the Atlantic Provinces may
suffer proportionately more economic hardship than central Canada.
Atlantic Canada may not experience as much warming as
central, western, and northern Canada, however, the region may be
particularly hard hit by secondary effects such as:
rising sea level
extreme weather events
reduced freshwater resources
drought on farms
exotic pests bringing new diseases and threats to
our farms and forests with infestation
increased forest fires
plant and animal communities may not be able to
adapt fast enough
Climate change models (used by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change), suggest that the projected increase in the
global average surface temperature will likely result in a global sea
level rise on an average of 50 cm by 2100. This change in sea level
will occur due to the thermal expansion of seawater and the melting of
glaciers and ice caps. This increase is a global estimate and sea
level increases on a more regional scale will depend on a variety of
factors such as the local coastline variations, changes to currents,
vertical land movements, and differences in tidal patterns.
In response to past glacial processes, the land in
Atlantic Canada is actually lowering. This means that the region is
already experiencing a relative increase in sea level and will be even
more susceptible to global changes in sea level. This is because the
projected increase in global sea level will be added to the current
rate of regional increase. At Halifax, for example, sea level has
risen about 30 cm over the last century. This means that with climate
change, Halifax could potentially experience an increase in sea level
of 80 cm by the year 2100. According to a report completed by the
Geological Survey of Canada in 1998, approximately 80% of the Atlantic
Region's coastline is considered to be highly sensitive to global sea
Each year, several large storms pass through the
Atlantic region and cause damage along the coast. Powerful storm waves
increase the risk of erosion on soft sediment shores and storm surges
put low-lying coastal areas at risk of flooding. Although there is
currently little agreement among climate models regarding changes in
future storm activity, many researchers believe the Atlantic region
will experience an increase in extreme events.
Morne National Park
(photo: K. McKenzie)
The major impacts expected for the region include an
increase in the rate and extent of erosion and coastal retreat. There
is also expected to be an increase in flooding and breaching of dykes
in low-lying coastal areas resulting from high tide events and/or
storm surges. This could mean that areas normally flooded once every
100 years could potentially experience floods every 10-20 years, and
areas previously safe from flooding could now be at risk. Areas
already vulnerable to erosion and flooding will be at even greater
risk as a result of sea-level rise. For example, along the Bay of
Fundy, an extensive system of dykes was started in the 1630s and now
protects 85% of the former marsh area from flooding and inundation.
Since the 1630s, regional sea level has risen by 1.3 m due to coastal
subsidence and although these dykes have been maintained and upgraded
to keep them at levels adequate enough to prevent flooding from
regular high water events, many are currently 2 m below the level of
an extreme storm surge superimposed on a high tide, and by 2100 they
could be as much as 3 m below.
on the Sackville
(photo: K. McKenzie)
Increased erosion and flooding will likely mean
significant impacts on coastal communities with damage to houses,
buildings, roads, bridges, and other types of infrastructure, as well
as the risk of contamination to fresh water supplies, damage to
drainage systems and sewage treatment facilities. Important coastal
resources and sensitive coastal habitats could also be at risk from
the impacts of increased erosion and flooding. There are also a host
of other areas that may experience impacts from increased erosion and
flooding such as human activities, human health and safety, emergency
preparedness, insurance, construction, maintenance and repair costs,
property ownership, jurisdiction, liability and legal issues.
level rise may also increase the risk of salinization to groundwater
in low-lying coastal regions or threaten the viability of freshwater
coastal aquifers. Salinization of freshwater supplies will be an
important concern for coastal communities, as well as for those
sectors or activities, such as coastal farming, that depend on this
(photo of Bathurst: K. McKenzie)
some coastal ecosystems may be able to naturally adapt or migrate
landwards in response to rising sea levels, those areas backed or
fringed by human development, where natural processes of coastal
evolution have been disrupted, may be permanently inundated or
squeezed out. Coastal
wetlands are extremely diverse and productive ecosystems and are
critical in the life-cycles of many marine and terrestrial species, so
the loss of these ecosystems could have significant implications for
biodiversity and coastal resources.
How can we adapt?
some climate change impacts are inevitable, planning adaptation
strategies now is essential. One example of adaptation is the Confederation
which was built a metre higher than currently required to accommodate
sea level rise over its one hundred year lifespan.
adaptation also includes maximizing climate change benefits, such as
planting new crops that can benefit from a longer growing season.
Other benefits may include a longer tourist season, less heating in
the winter, and increased shipping. Whether these benefits will
outweigh the hardships or not is questionable.