Canada wants your thoughts on adapting to climate change

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OTTAWA—The realities of climate change are being felt across the globe and Canada is no exception. The federal government has launched the public consultation phase to develop Canada’s first National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), which it calls a whole-of-society blueprint for coordinated action across the country, to ensure communities and Canadians are prepared for the impacts of climate change.

Canada is warming twice as fast as the global average and Canadians are being asked to provide input on how businesses and communities can prepare for climate events such as extreme heat, drought, flooding, wildfires and melting permafrost.

According to the Canadian Climate Institute, the number and cost of catastrophic weather events in the past decade alone were twice as high as those recorded from 1983 to 2009. The Insurance Bureau of Canada found that severe weather caused $2.1 billion in insured damage in 2021 and said the “new normal” for insured losses from severe weather events across Canada is $2 billion per year. Uninsured losses are estimated to be double that amount.

“We need to look at climate action in this 21st century as a matter of both offence and defence,” said Steven Guilbeault, minister for Environment and Climate Change Canada at the launch announcement. “Today, as we increase our preparations for the many impacts of a changing climate, it feels like fighting a war on two fronts. We can, we must, do both. We must reduce carbon pollution and we must prepare for the impacts of climate change.”

Preparing for climate change can take different forms, the minister said. That could include actions such as designing a riverside park to absorb heavier spring flooding or constructing better insulated homes, or better sharing data on climate and weather systems so communities can better prepare for situations from snow loads to wildfires.

“Adaptation really is a global story, the survival of humankind across the ages,” said Minister Guilbeault. “With a rapidly changing climate, our government has been working urgently on the development of a new adaptation strategy.”

Canada lags behind other countries that have already developed their national strategies, according to Canadian Climate Institute, which points out Canada can learn from the experience of those other countries.

The government published a discussion paper to kick off public consultations. The paper sets out guiding principles and goals and objectives for five key focus areas: health and well-being, natural and built infrastructure, environment, economy, and disaster resilience and security.

“Our National Adaptation Strategy will set targets, identify gaps, pinpoint needed areas for investments and help make communities safer and better prepared to support a more stable and resilient economy,” Minister Guilbeault said.

The strategy is expected to launch this fall. Individual Canadians, community organizations and other stakeholders can participate through the online portal at letstalkadaptation.ca until July 15. “This NAS consultation will ensure we leave no stone unturned, no climate impact ignored, no community bypassed, and no fresh idea unexplored,” said Minister Guilbeault.