Climate Change Adaptation: 

Canadian expert in town to share knowledge and ideas

This article by Roopa Rakshit was originally published in the Chronicle Journal in February 2014.                                                                                 

         “There are risks and costs to a program of action.

                 But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of         

                  comfortable inaction.”

                                                    - John F. Kennedy

 Climate Change is multi-faceted and an evolving, demanding phenomenon. Some changes will bring positive effects but many changes will not be so promising. Gradually increasing average temperatures and more extreme heavy rain events have already been experienced in Thunder Bay and in the neighbouring regions.

A report released a few weeks ago titled Lake Superior Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation summarizes the changes for the Lake Superior basin expected in the next 100 years. Average annual air temperatures are anticipated to increase by 3 to 4.5 degrees Celsius and average annual Lake Superior water temperatures to increase by 5 to7 degrees Celsius. The frequency and intensity of storms over the Great Lakes Region is also predicted to increase.

The climatic changes will have numerous impacts on Lake Superior ecosystems. For example, forest species throughout the Lake Superior region are expected to experience increased stress from drought, disease and fires. Eventually there is expected to a northward shift of habitat with more species from forests further south. Warmer lake waters may cause a decrease of cold water fish species such as trout and salmon and an increase in warm water fish species such as bass and carp. Changes to lake stratification, oxygenation, phytoplankton, and currents are also expected to impact a variety of aquatic wildlife. (The report is available at

Some of the impacts of climate change, in particular more severe weather events, will affect urban areas including infrastructure such as storm water systems, communication lines, roads and bridges and delivery of emergency services. In addition changing water levels can impact hydroelectric power generation and transportation. Organizations that deliver community services need to adapt to new weather conditions.

Mitigation and adaptation are two main policy responses to confront the impacts of climate change. Mitigation addresses ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, adaptation attempts to reduce vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change. The adaptation process begins by the prioritization of key challenges, development of strategy and implementing robust actions.

In 2013, Canadian insurance companies paid out a record $3.2 billion in severe weather losses, mainly related to flooding. This does not include many other losses such as uninsured damage, human hardship and environmental damage. Increased efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change cannot be delayed.

On February 4 Environment North is hosting the second Environmental Knowledge Learning and Sharing Seminar. The evening features a presentation titled Climate Adaptation: Bringing Research and Local Knowledge together by Dr. Stewart Cohen. Against the backdrop of a local climate adaptation strategy, EarthCare Thunder Bay will share its initiatives and activities. This will provide an excellent opportunity for community dialogue.

Dr. Cohen is a professor with the Department of Forest Resources Management at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Cohen has contributed to numerous national reports on climate change impacts and adaptation in Canada and the U.S. Dr. Cohen has also co-authored a book “Climate Change in the 21st Century”. This book demonstrates that climate change is not only an environmental problem but one with far-reaching social and economic implications.

The event will take place on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, 7:00 p.m. at the Waverley Library Auditorium, 285 Red River Road. Admission is free and all are welcome. Environment North is pleased to be partnering with EarthCare Thunder Bay, Bay Credit Union, EcoSuperior and Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel. Visit for more details. Roopa Rakshit is a board member of Environment North.