Chapter 4 - Atlantic Canada

Key Findings

Atlantic Canada will experience more storm events, increasing storm intensity, rising sea level, storm surges, coastal erosion and flooding.  Coastal communities and their infrastructure and industries, including fisheries and tourism, are vulnerable to these changes. Impacts on coastal infrastructure, such as bridges, roads and energy facilities, have already affected trade and tourism in the region, and some coastal communities have started experiencing saltwater intrusion in their groundwater supply. Future disruptions to transportation, electricity transmission and communications will have widespread implications, including increasing the susceptibility of some communities to isolation.

Water resources will come under pressure as conditions shift and needs change. Seasonal and yearly variations in precipitation will combine with higher evapotranspiration to induce drier summer conditions, especially in Maritime Canada. Limited water resources would affect municipal water supplies and challenge a range of sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, tourism and energy.

For marine fisheries, impacts will extend beyond fish species to include numerous aspects of fishery operations, including transportation, marketing, occupational health and safety, and community health.  Harvesters of wild marine resources are constrained in their potential responses to climate change by the existing regulatory regimes. Integration of climate change into assessments and policy development would allow more effective management of marine resources.

Although higher temperatures and longer growing seasons could benefit agriculture and forestry, associated increases in disturbances and moisture stress pose concerns.  Changes in climate have implications for management of agricultural production and farm water usage. Re-examination of cropping systems and improved water management would help the agricultural sector to adapt, although non-climatic factors, such as socioeconomic and demographic trends, may limit adaptive responses. In some areas of the Maritimes, forested areas will be affected by drier summers, potentially leading to reduction or loss of species that prefer cooler and wetter climates. Options for short-term adaptation, although limited in the forestry sector, are likely to focus on minimizing other stresses and preserving genetic diversity.

Vulnerability to climate change in the Atlantic region can be reduced through adaptation efforts focused on limiting exposure and through careful planning.  Identifying vulnerable infrastructure, incorporating river and coastal flooding in land-use policies, revising emergency response measures, and accounting for sea-level rise when planning and building infrastructure would reduce damage to infrastructure and the environment, and lessen the risk to human health and well-being. Other effective adaptation measures include managing development in coastal areas, preventing construction in areas of known vulnerability, and protecting coastlines around significant sites. In some communities, low adaptive capacity due to aging populations and average annual incomes lower than the national average will make adaptation challenging to implement.