Climate change is already imposing an economic cost on Albertans, but timely and well-chosen adaptation measures may be cost effective at reducing the severity of those costs. Adapting to climate change may help mitigate exposure to losses, as well as have the potential to reduce increased insurance costs and position a municipality as forward thinking and prepared, which may attract both investment and new residents.
Changing temperature and precipitation patterns, along with an increase in extreme weather events that are expected as a result of climate change, can have real implications for our food and agriculture systems. In addition, the complexity and interconnectedness of the global food system means that regional and global climate change impacts can have a ripple effect and be noticed locally on availability of food and on our grocery bills. The urban food system needs to be resilient to these impacts so that citizens are food secure and have reliable access to healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate food.
Climate change impacts will have implications and pose multiple threats to our urban natural spaces and various ecosystems within them. As damage or changes to these ecosystems and their functions accumulate, their ability to supply ecosystem goods and services (the benefits humans derive from ecosystems) may be diminished. Protecting biodiversity and a city’s natural infrastructure is critical to ensuring continued benefits of our ecosystems.
Climate change adaptation efforts can be either incremental or transformational in nature. Incremental adaptation involves building on and improving the efficiency of conventional practices, approaches, technologies and governance structures for climate risk reduction and management. The transformational approach involves taking a broader and more systematic look at the root causes of the vulnerability of a city to the impacts of climate change, and then taking steps to reduce these sources of vulnerability.
The main risks of climate change to our vital transportation infrastructure come from increased climate vulnerability and extreme climate events including longer heatwaves, freeze-thaw cycles, and more frequent storms and flooding. Transportation needs to be resilient to these risks so that people, goods and services can move around a city, despite the effects of climate shocks and stresses to infrastructure.
Water supply and sanitation will be impacted by climate change, both directly within municipal boundaries and indirectly through climate change impacts in upstream/source watershed. Resilient water supply and sanitation systems are needed to protect the health of our citizens.
Electricity supply systems are vulnerable to climate stresses through increased cooling demands and exposure to climate shocks like floods, fires, ice storms, droughts, and tornados. Climate change risks such as flooding, high winds, and ice loads can impact our information and communications technology infrastructure. Protecting the electrical and communications systems is important for reducing the risks to these assets.
With the changing climate, the built environment is exposed to increasing climate stresses. Assessing infrastructure vulnerability and responding to these vulnerabilities is a key element to mitigating risks to the built environment.
Anticipated changes in our climate have potential implications for our municipal systems, including disaster preparedness, emergency management and public health, primarily due to the growing risk of more severe and frequent disaster-level events. This should be considered when updating emergency response and disaster preparedness strategies and plans.