Canadian Communities' Guidebook for Adaptation to Climate Change

Livia Bizikova, Ian Burton
Created: 12/31/2007 -


Many local governments have already begun working on decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recently, a growing number have begun examining ways to adapt to climate change – the act of reducing climate change impacts that are already underway. This Guidebook is intended to help those who are looking for ways to reduce the impacts of climate change (increasing heat waves, water shortages, intense storms and sea-level rise) while decreasing GHG emissions and ensuring sustainable development for their communities. Several different methods can be used to adapt to climate change. Some of these methods contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while increasing long-term sustainability. Expanding the tree canopy in urban centres, for example, helps to reduce the impact of an increasing number of hot days and heat waves. It also reduces the need for air conditioning, and so reduces greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled electricity generation. Healthy trees also decrease the impact of intense rainfall, stormwater runoff and pollution – increasing sustainability for our communities.

Climate change impacts will affect societies in complex and broad-ranging ways as technological, economic, social and ecological changes take place across regions, groups and sectors. Ecological impacts have cascading effects on social and health outcomes. Infrastructure problems have profound economic effects, such as the estimated $10 billion US price tag resulting from North America’s 2003 power outage. Cities, regions and countries are linked through the global political economic system so that impacts in one area of the world may affect other areas through economic forces, such as prices for agricultural products, or pressures including international migration.

In North America, vulnerability to climate change will depend on the effectiveness and timing of adaptation, as well as the distribution of coping capacity. While Canada has considerable  adaptive capacity when compared to many less developed nations, vulnerability and adaptive capacity are not uniform across our society. Socially and economically disadvantaged populations are likely to have less adaptive capacity than the population as a whole, and climate “surprises” may bring weaknesses in adaptive capacity to light that were not previously recognized (e.g., the 1988 Ice Storm, Hurricane Katrina or the 1995 Chicago heat wave). Community attributes, including social networks, social cohesion, volunteerism, economic and income diversification, contribute to adaptive capacity and resilience. Societal impacts will therefore depend on factors such as wealth, infrastructure quality, emergency preparedness, healthcare, community vitality, economic and governance system structure, and population growth.

Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable development (SAM) are often developed separately at the local government and community level. Recognition of the need to integrate climate risks into development priorities and decision making is the principal driving force behind the development of the SAM project. A number of methods are possible for the integration of adaptation and mitigation in the context of sustainable development. This Guidebook provides one such method.

Published On


Community / Local
National / Federal
Sector Addressed
Development (socioeconomic)
Transportation / Infrastructure
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Reduce local climate or related change
Capacity Building
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct vulnerability assessments and studies
Host adaptation training or planning workshop
Create stakeholder engagement processes to develop and implement adaptation strategies
Conduct scenario planning exercise
Monitor climate change impacts and adaptation efficacy
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Develop / implement adaptation plans
Develop / implement adaptive management strategies
Maintain adequate financial resources for adaptation
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water supply