Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks

This Expert Panel assessment responds to two important questions from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat: What are the top climate change risks for Canada, and

Charged by the federal government with identifying the top areas of climate risk facing Canada on a national scale, the Expert Panel assessed a wide range of evidence on climate change impacts and risks and identified 12 major areas at risk that are liable to lead to significant losses, damages, or disruptions in Canada over a 20-year timeframe, with the highest risk in six areas: physical infrastructure; coastal communities; northern communities; human health and wellness; ecosystems; and fisheries.

In all cases, adaptation can reduce the damage or costs associated with climate change. However, no risk can be completely eliminated through adaptation alone. Thus, decision-makers need to anticipate and plan for consequences that are unavoidable in the short and medium term, while working to reduce future GHG emissions globally.

The effectiveness of adaptation actions can be maximized by: (i) considering systemic interconnections across risks in the design of their adaptation strategies; (ii) phasing out and avoiding maladaptive actions (i.e., actions that increase emissions or exacerbate risks in other areas); (iii) taking advantage of windows of opportunity for adaptation progress; (iv) factoring social context, cost, and technical feasibility into the evaluation of adaptation opportunities; and (v) favouring adaptation options with co-benefits for emissions reduction and other policy objectives.