CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS
Climate Change is a change in the long-term global temperature normal, or average, due to an increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and land use changes that are causing the average global temperature to rise. Since the end of the last glaciation period, the Earth’s climate has remained in a relatively stable and balanced state but it is shifting out of that balance. Over 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring due to human activities.
In Canada, the rate of warming approaches twice the global average. Temperatures have increased by 1.3 degrees Celsius since 1948 and are projected to hit a 2 degree Celsius rise by 2050 and 4 degree Celsius rise by 2080 (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives Canada, n.d.). Even with efforts to reduce GHG emissions (mitigation), climate change is already being felt in New Brunswick in the form of rising temperatures, sea level rise, higher intensity precipitation events, increased severity of inland and coastal flooding, accelerated rates of coastal erosion, and land loss that will continue to have negative impacts for the City of Saint John if no adaptation occurs (NBDELG, 2014). Sea level rise, the health risk from extreme heat, flooding, the spread of communicable diseases, urban water quality, and water availability will be the most pressing impacts to the Greater Saint John Area from climate change, requiring local initiative in the coming decades.
What does the Mean for Saint John?
Local and regional climates will respond differently to global warming based on the unique set of geographic conditions in each area. For example, Saint John has cooler summers and warmer winters than Fredericton because of its location on the coast; therefore, climate change will affect each of these cities in different ways. The Climate Change Secretariat of the Government of New Brunswick has released New Brunswick’s Future Climate Projections: AR5 Data and Maps to help communities understand local changes and prepare for impacts over the course of this century. These local projections were developed from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projections in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)
Climate Change Projections for the Greater Saint John Area
(Roy and Huard, 2016; PCC, n.d.; Daigle, 2014)
Mean annual temp. increases by 3.5°C by 2071-2100 compared to 1970-2000.
Average winter temp. above -1°C by 2071-2100.
Up to 70 annual very hot days (25°C +) by 2071-2100.
Annual freeze-thaw days increase from 82 to 87 by 2070.
Annual rainfall increases by 84.5 mm by 2080 compared to 1976-2005.
Precipitation patterns become more erratic, and rainfall intensity will increase by 10 %.
Approximately 20 more days will be rain days by 2071-2100.
Increased severity and/or frequency of summer convective storms and ice storms.
Increased severity and/or frequency of flooding from extreme rainfall, mid-winter thaws, ice breakups and ice-jam flooding.
Forest fire occurrence increases by 25 % by 2030, 75-140 % by 2100.
Higher incidence, duration and severity of drought from earlier peak spring flows and very low to zero summer flows.
Sea Level Rise
Atlantic Canada sea level has risen by ~30 cm between 1911-2000.
Saint John sea level rise of 86 cm +/- 38 cm from 2010 to 2100.
Annual storm surge levels increase by 0.8 m compared to 2010.
1 in 100-year storm levels increase by 1.3 m by 2100 compared to 2010.
Current coastal erosion rates of 0.59-0.99 m/yr.
A combination of high tide and storm surge in Saint John on October 29, 2015 gave an indication of where coastal infrastructure is already at risk to flooding and erosion. Figure 1 shows waves crashing over the rocks and into the beach volleyball courts next to Loyalist Plaza. Coastal infrastructure will be at greater risk in the future due to sea level rise which will contribute to higher tide levels over the rest of this century and more frequent storm surges and extreme weather events.
Vulnerabilities for Saint John
Health and Safety
Increased presence of lyme disease as infected ticks spread north with warming temperatures (Brownstein, Holford, and Fish, 2005).
Reduced quality and quantity of water supplies from outdated infrastructure, flooding, extreme weather events, and erratic precipitation (NBDELG, n.d.).
Cyanotoxins, harmful bacterial growth, pollutants, viruses, and sewage backup from warming temperatures and increased severe weather events (Fann et al., 2016).
Immediate flood risks include mortality and injury.
Longer term flood risks include water, food, vector, rodent, and zoonotic-borne diseases, food insecurity, chemical contamination (air, water, and soil), psychosocial distress, deterioration of physically unstable persons, or maternal health issues (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2018).
Air quality degradation from emissions, warming temperatures, forest fires, and smog.
Commercial Operations and Grey Infrastructure
Damage to municipal infrastructure from increased likelihood of landslides, fire, heavy snow on roofs, stress on urban trees, roadways and bridges, and from increased freezing of buried pipes
20 to 32% increase in infrastructure costs by 2080 (CBCL Limited, n.d.).
Especially vulnerable: Port Saint John, Canaport LNG, Irving Oil, J.D. Irving, roads, causeways, embankments, and residential properties along the coast.
Waste and stormwater systems, pipes, fire hydrants, pressure boosters, water towers, pumping stations, and water treatment facilities are also vulnerable to damage from climate change impacts.
Species and Habitats
Coastal habitats are highly vulnerable to climate change.
Productive salt water marshes, beaches, and mudflats at risk from retreat and coastal erosion.
Cold water adapted seaweeds that support mussels, clams, scallops, lobster, and fish are at risk from warming.
Temperatures affecting rockweeds, Irish moss, kelp, and the invasive Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides (Wilson et al., 2015).
Atlantic Salmon growth season will diminish and Striped Bass growth will expand (Dugdale et al., 2017).
Sea Stars are decreasing in growth while mussels are proliferating from reduced predation (Keppel, Scrosati, and Courtenay, 2015).
Acadian Forest is expected to see some species lost and other species to exhibit major productivity boosts, which affects the goods, services, and ecosystems they provide from shifting species’ climatic range limits (Taylor et al., 2017)
Harmful algal blooms, ionic pollutants, extensive hypoxia, and toxic levels of ammonia and methylmercury in freshwater animals are all favoured by changing conditions (Pinkney, 2014).
Acadian Forest is expected to ‘deborealize’, which affects the goods, services, and ecosystems they provide from shifting species’ climatic range limits (Taylor et al., 2017).
Low-Income and Single Parent Households
Climate change disproportionately hurts the world’s poor.
Low-income residents have the least resources available to prepare for floods and storms and often live in the most vulnerable regions of the world (World Bank Group, 2015).
Poor quality housing predisposed to damage from flooding with heightened risk to further physical or mental health impacts of natural disasters (Burton et al., 2016).
Reduced ability to have insurance, fix or replace damaged property (i.e. addressing dampness-related mould that can be hazardous following a severe flooding event), access to alternative shelter, or use of legal services (Warren and Lemmen, 2014).
Low-income and single-parent families in the City have the second highest incidence rate of poverty in Canada after Charlotte County, New Brunswick, which as of 2014 stands at 40.5 % (Saint John Human Development Council, 2014).
New developments will need to avoid flood-prone areas to protect renters.
Heavily reliant on climate-sensitive resources, such as local water and food supplies whose quality and availability can be impacted by extreme weather events (Hunt and Watkiss, 2010).
Limited capacity to reduce extreme weather exposure and sensitivity to climate risk (Burton et al., 2016).
Increased heat stress during heat waves (Health Canada, 2013).
90 individuals aged 15 and over who were using city shelters for the homeless in Saint John to their capacity (Allen, 2008).
Gender-Based Analysis Plus
An analytical tool developed by the Government of Canada, Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) can be used to assess how diverse groups of people experience policies, programs, and initiatives differently.
Inclusive of intersections of identity such as race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental and physical ability (Government of Canada, 2017).
Those who face social isolation can face experience sensitivity to climate change and may require additional assistance following an extreme weather event.
Marginalized groups experience more negative mental health impacts following a natural disaster, whose aftermath in urban spaces is shown to reinforce social inequalities that inhibit sustainable development (Kammerbauer and Wamsler, 2017).
Pregnant women are amongst the most vulnerable to flooding, extreme heat and other natural hazards in Canada and may require additional assistance (Burton et al., 2016).
Gender can also impact recovery rates and overall health following an extreme weather event (Fernandez et al., 2015).
Pre-existing Medical Conditions
Extreme heat can exacerbate cardiovascular disease, mental health issues, behavioural disorders, neurological disorders, respiratory illness, kidney disease, and metabolic conditions (i.e. diabetes and obesity) can have their health deteriorate (Health Canada, 2013).
Respiratory conditions are susceptible to aggravation from poor air quality.
Other pre-existing conditions can inhibit an individual’s ability to respond to climate risk.
The medical community can monitor these conditions to ensure patients are prepared for any adjustments needed to adapt to climate risk.
Seniors and Youth
Seniors are less likely to leave their homes in an emergency from decreased mobility, fear of being looted, or from being dependent on regular medical services.
Residents who are 75 years of age are comparatively more susceptible to heat stress and the negative health impacts of poor air quality that can be induced by climate change (Health Canada, 2013).
Young children and infants are more vulnerable to negative health impacts of climate change based on their anatomic, cognitive, immunologic, and psychological development compared to adults (Stanberry, Thomson, and James, 2018).
Food security can be compromised during and after extreme weather events, making children who already come from food insecure households much more vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Limited English and Lower Literacy Levels
Approximately 4,075 immigrants in the City, of which 3,410 have a mother tongue other than English or French, and 640 people have no knowledge of these two languages (Statistics Canada, 2018).
Increased vulnerability to climate change impacts due to being unable to interpret early warning systems or critical safety information (Burton et al., 2016).
Proficient interpreting services are vital for newcomers to the City of Saint John to understanding climate risk and procedures for emergency response.
Roughly 50 % of Anglophones and over 60 % of Francophones in New Brunswick fall between reading levels 0-2, meaning limited literacy skills (Bérard-Chagnon and Lepage, 2016).
Need plain language climate change communication in both French and English, with interpretive services available, to accommodate all levels of literacy.
In Canada, 73 % of First Nations water systems are already at risk of contamination (Lui, 2014), and this risk is exacerbated when living in flood-prone and ecologically sensitive areas (Burton et al., 2016).
More indigenous children live in single-parent households compared to non-indigenous children, which reduces the adaptive capacity to climate change.
On-reserve First Nations people are more likely to be living in a crowded home or in homes requiring major repairs compared to off-reserve First Nations and the non-indigenous population, exacerbate climate risk after extreme weather or disaster.
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