The following article, “The Great Lakes Need Adaptation Experiments”, by Gail Krantzberg and Sommer Abdel-Fattah, appeared in watercanada’s July/August publication.
To mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on the Great
Lakes basin ecosystem, it is essential to plan for and adapt current programs and policies. Adaptive strategies need to be specific enough to address the driver of degradation. In the Great Lakes, temperature increases will be particularly important in shallow areas, so adaptation strategies are needed to protect, for example, wetland habitats and biodiversity.
I found an excellent youtube video, ” Municipal Adaptation and Resiliency Service”, posted Jan. 16, 2014, that will clarify and /or add to many points in this article. (The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is launching a Municipal Adaptation and Resiliency Service (MARS) for its member municipalities, to help them accelerate and expand their adaptation activities, to be ready for the next storm. Visit glslcities.org/mars.cfm for more information.)
With more intense precipitation events, adaptation strategies that address non-point source pollution are prudent. Precautionary actions should include measures to reduce soil erosion, address land and water quality degradation, anticipate infrastructure to avoid flooding, and avert infrastructure failure. Measures include the creation of riparian buffer strips, the manipulation of stormwater pathways, the increase of permeable surfaces, and erosion control on steep slopes. Further, attention should be paid to infrastructural changes to ensure the integrity of harbours, marinas, and piers as well as improvement of navigational aids and hydrographic charting.
While recent efforts have focused on the capacity of practitioners to understand how the changing climate impacts water quality and quantity, there are limited examples of adaptation being implemented. Challenges that explain why implementation is limited include:
1 A lack of funding to test and implement innovative technologies;
2 A lack of institutional capacity for adaptation planning and implementation;
3 Cuts to federal science in support of technical modelling of climate projections to reduce uncertaintyin results;
4 Complexities of multi-sector coordination;
5 Fragmentation across agencies;
6 A lack of social and community involvement, with trends to an increasing lack of public concern or confidence in climate science;
7 A lack of adaptation policy and enforced policy; and
8 Few examples of adaptive studies that have demonstrated effective solutions.
At present, most Great Lakes states and provinces have adopted climate action plans that provide greenhouse-gas emission inventory data and make emission reduction recommendations. While there is a general emphasis on the environmental risks and the value of reducing emissions, much less attention has been given to adaptation. Where plans do exist, most of the focus has been placed on responses to changes in water availability and demand, and how to manage increases in demand for water, much less so to water quality and ecosystem integrity.
On the positive side, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative launched the Municipal Adaptation and Resiliency Service (MARS) in January 2014 to help municipalities accelerate and expand their adaptation activities. This initiative will provide a portal for municipal members to access climate and adaptation information and resources that will also serve as an interactive forum for information sharing.
The push for adaptation interventions comes from understanding the ramifications of climate-related changes to plausible ecosystem impacts through preventative action. Adaptation efforts must include capacity building, policy innovation, natural resource management actions, and engaging the Great Lakes community in the implementation and evaluation of those efforts.
Gail Krantzberg is the director of the Centre
for Engineering and Public Policy at McMaster
Sommer Abdel-Fattah is an NSERC
post-doctoral government fellow and lecturer
in the bachelor of engineering and technology
program at McMaster University.