April 21, 2016

OCC at Adaptation Canada 2016: Key Themes and Messages

It is widely accepted that climate change is a present reality. Furthermore, present concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere suggest we can expect to experience further warming and extreme weather variability, characteristic of a changing climate. Therefore, adaptation is more important than ever, but it cannot be considered independent of climate mitigation efforts. This was a key message of the Adaptation Canada 2016 symposium, which took place in Ottawa from April 12 to 14th.AdaptCanLogo

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna opened the symposium by speaking on what inspires and motivates her to act on climate change, and noted that the people of Canada’s Arctic are already facing life-changing impacts. Human history is one of climate adaptation but it is apparent that the present rate of global climate change we are experiencing today challenges us to keep up.

The Ontario Climate Consortium presented within two sessions at the symposium: Edmundo Fausto presented on the state of climate change science in the Great Lakes basin and Glenn Milner presented on how we can make climate information more relevant to Ontario decision-makers. OCC staff participated in sessions, and discussions with Canadian stakeholders and public servants around the state of adaptation and the identification of gaps and needs that exist today – particularly in Ontario.

A number of gaps, needs and opportunities were identified throughout the symposium, such as:

  • There is an increased need for a ‘translation’ service to convert climate data into understandable, relevant and clear information for decision makers;
  • Increased coordination and collaboration is needed in the province of Ontario on climate adaptation services in general, particularly across the public and private sectors;
  • Better monitoring data is required for particular sectors, like farmers who require soil data;
  • Dedicated support and direction from government is important to ensure services are being coordinated and provided most effectively to Ontario municipalities, businesses, and residents;
  • An increase in implementation and cost-benefit analysis projects is strongly supported as part of the development of a resilient future across Canada.

A number of emerging tools were presented at the symposium to aid in adaptation, a few of which are briefly summarized below. First, a policy analysis tool called AdapTool by the Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) was presented that provides guidance on how to evaluate existing policies and where they do or do not support climate adaptation. Second, an integrated geospatial platform hosted by Natural Resources Canada called the Federal Geospatial Platform was announced for release in the summer of 2016. This tool will integrate data across Canadian government departments, including overlaying climate model data with land-based information. Finally, Risk Sciences International (RSI) released their Climate Change Hazards Information Portal, or CCHIP, which is a user-friendly climate data portal to integrate data into planning and design decisions, and provides defensible insights on future projections.

As the symposium wrapped up on April 14th, two things were clear: 1) challenges continue to exist in the climate adaptation process and some confusion still exists across the stakeholder community as to what are the best (or tried and tested) ways of creating a resilient future; but 2) adapting to climate change is essential and the adaptation community across Canada and in Ontario are establishing a foundation for resilience, based on sound science, data and research every day.

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