CM – Protect or withdraw: Rising seas threaten Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts


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December 9, 2021

from University of Waterloo

As has been observed in the past few weeks, rising sea levels, swollen atmospheric rivers and post-tropical storms threaten the municipal infrastructure, housing conditions and the safety of the people who live on Canada’s east and west coasts. In response, a new guide from the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation, University of Waterloo, presents practical solutions to limit the financial and social costs of these evolving risks.

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The majority of Canada’s coastal population lives directly on the shores of the Atlantic (East) and Pacific (West), where rising sea levels, storm surges and flooding can all work together to create floods with harmful effects on communities and infrastructure. The need to address these threats quickly is underlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, which highlights that sea level rise is bound « for centuries to millennia ».

The new guide drawn from the standards Council of Canada, the National Research Council of Canada and Infrastructure Canada, catalogs approaches that fall under two types of coastal protection:

Nature-based solutions in particular play a crucial role in managing coastal flooding and erosion risk in Canada. International experience shows that these measures not only provide protection against coastal flooding and erosion, but can also offer several benefits, including improved biodiversity, carbon sequestration and storage, improved social well-being and tourism.

« We can no longer manage coastal risks by fighting endlessly against natural processes, ”said report author Joanna Eyquem, director of climate resilient infrastructure at the Intact Center. « There are real win-win opportunities to work with nature over the long term, with multiple benefits for the community and beyond. »

The report identifies three interventions to expand the use of nature-based solutions for coastal protection in Canada:

The report also stresses that there is no need to choose between “green” or “gray” infrastructure solutions. As with climate adaptation and greenhouse gas reduction, both approaches can and should be viewed and used together.

“As this year’s devastating floods in British Columbia demonstrated, we are still not doing enough to protect our communities from the extreme effects to protect climate change, ”said Chantal Guay, CEO of the Standards Council of Canada. “In this new normal, all adaptation solutions – including those that use the power of nature – must be on the table. By compiling case studies and coastal protection best practices across Canada, this report is an essential resource for any coastal community looking to protect themselves from the effects of climate change. The report also recommends the development of new national standards that will play a key role in mainstreaming the use of nature-based solutions in coastal adaptation. « 

The full report is available online from the Intact Center and the Standards Council of Canada.

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