According to the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other leading climate change researchers, climate change is impacting and will continue to affect the health and well being of people and communities throughout the world even if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to the Kyoto Protocol target levels. If left unmitigated, these climate changes are likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt.
Globally, estimates of the annual cost of climate change impacts range from $300 billion to over $2,000 billion. While there is no consensus that either Hurricane Juan that affected Nova Scotia, or Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities were caused by climate change, the devastating physical, health, and social impacts may foretell the type of impacts on vulnerable coastal communities that are likely to become more frequent in the future as a consequence of global climate change. Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) has been witness to the physical and social impacts of extreme weather, notably Hurricane Juan in September 2003, and the one-metre snowfall and high winds experienced during the ‘Great Maritime Blizzard’ of February 2004. These extreme events significantly impacted the region, and severely impacted the region’s electrical and communications infrastructure as well as impeding public access to health and emergency service facilities throughout the Province of Nova Scotia but most particularly here in the HRM.
In response to HRM’s experience with extreme events and the projections that indicate these events are expected to be become more frequent, the Sustainable Environment Management Office (SEMO) in collaboration with members of ClimAdapt (a network of private sectorcompanies in Nova Scotia that provide climate change adaptation expertise) partnered with, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia to develop an approach that could be implemented to reduce HRM’s contribution to greenhouse gases and manage the impacts of climate change. The result of thisinitiative was Climate SMART (Sustainable Mitigation and Adaptation Risk Toolkit) with the overall objective of mainstreaming climate change into municipal decision making.