Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia) – Today, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released yet another sobering report, further highlighting the need for swift and substantial cuts to carbon emissions and extensive adaptation measures to combat the ongoing effects of climate change.
“Globally, we’re already experiencing extreme events like heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires which are becoming more frequent, intense and long-lasting—harming people, infrastructure and the natural world,” explains Will Balser, coastal adaption coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre. “Here in Nova Scotia, more than 70 per cent of people live in coastal communities and will be subject to the most severe sea-level rise in the country, so oceanic effects will have an increased impact.”
Adaptation measures have increased in frequency but are often inadequate and drastically underfunded. In an already changing climate, we have no choice but to adapt to our current and future circumstances. Balser notes that the costs of climate change are already enormous and will accelerate if we do not invest in adapting our communities, infrastructure, food systems, along with protecting and restoring ecosystems.
“Investing in adaptation today will save money, prevent loss, prepare communities and improve wellbeing; one dollar spent today in climate adaption measures will save six dollars tomorrow in future costs to local governments,” explains Balser. “International finance for adaptation needs to be greatly increased as well: many of the people most negatively affected by climate change can’t protect themselves against it without more support from all levels of government.”
“Provincial policies like the upcoming Coastal Protection Act are an essential part of our climate change adaptation strategy and we’ll need broad and effective regulations on ecosystem protection, emissions reduction and food system security as soon as possible,” says Balser. “Globally and locally, every community will be affected by continued warming—particularly those who are already vulnerable, including people in poverty, unhoused, subsistence farmers, outdoor labourers, women, Indigenous Peoples and ethnic minorities. Climate change has increased inequity and will continue to do so without immediate action.”
Many strategies are already underway locally: living shoreline projects on the Northumberland Shore provide a nature-based solution to increasing erosion and sea-level rise; saltwater marsh restoration in the Bay of Fundy dykelands reduces erosion, revives ecosystems and stores significant amounts of carbon. These measures, among many others, play a huge role in helping Nova Scotia adapt to a changing climate, and should be implemented across the province.
But despite the importance of adaptation, Balser notes that some damages of climate change can’t be adapted to and the more the world warms the worse those losses and damages will be. Adaptation will become increasingly impossible without faster emission cuts. Sea-level rise, pressures on freshwater supplies and crops and damage to ecosystems like coral reefs will go beyond what can be adapted to, particularly as temperature rise passes 1.5°C.
“At the end of the day, warming is already happening, and it’s only going to get worse,” says Balser. “So, adaptation is acutely important. But we must avoid adaptation being seen as a replacement for the emissions cuts needed to ensure a liveable future for our communities. It can’t be one or the other, it has to be both. We have the tools and strategies available; we now need commitments, funding and swift action.”