4.8 The Bay of Fundy and the tides of climate change
The projects led in the Bay of Fundy have shown that communities are vulnerable to climate change. In most cases, floods, erosion and sea level rise, as well as increasing intensity of storms and rainfall are the main concern. But the impact of changes in ocean conditions on marine ecosystems are also a big concern in communities that rely heavily on fishing, and on tourism. In Charlotte county, it could be observed that the recommendations vary greatly depending on local perceived vulnerability and on the history of climate hazards. In Saint Stephen, previously affected by climate hazards, discussions focused more on disaster risk reduction than climate change adaptation planning. In other municipalities, that had had lesser climate hazards to date, the future impacts of climate change were more discussed.
The implication of residents in the research process made it possible to extract a great deal of information on local conditions, environmental changes and issues that need to be addressed in priority. The implication of residents and an open and collaborative research process also raise awareness and motivate the participants. Throughout the CCCVA process, it was observed that new information motivates discussion and the generation of ideas within the communities. LiDAR tools and the downscaled climate change impact scenarios resulting in detailed flood and sea-level rise projection maps were appreciated by the communities and should prove useful for climate change adaptation planning.
The capacity of communities to adapt to climate change is often limited by factors such as a lack of financial capacity, of human resources, and of jurisdictional authority (as evidenced in the Gulf Of Maine Climate Network’s study on over 30 Canadian municipalities around the Gulf of Maine). The lack of resources affects as well long-term planning as the response to imminent situations. Access to knowledge is often hindered by its mode of production and dissemination. Thus, most government stakeholder meetings and climate-related conferences, as well as academic conferences are held in the province’s major centres, limiting its access for smaller communities. It was therefore suggested that online resources could be created, that address mitigation efforts, how to prepare for forecasted hazard events, and how to respond to a climate hazard crisis. Such a resource would also become a crucial link in EMO preparation ensuring up to date information is accessible to all involved in planning as well as relief efforts.
Governance is a much-discussed issue. In the Charlotte County study, a bylaw review for climate change adaptation was recommended in all cases, in order to facilitate proactive planning. Simultaneously, the working groups estimated that a regional engagement and communications strategy should be developed. The role of authorities, as in other cases (see the case studies of New Brunswick), is regularly put into question. Reeder and Killorn (2004) note that “… there is widespread frustration amongst the citizenry regarding interaction with NBEMO.” On the other hand, the local governance reform in New Brunswick with the creation of regional service commissions and the the government decision to expand the NBEMO presence throughout the province by creating six Regional Emergency Management Coordinator positions are potentially interesting tools to support local governance. As those structures are still new, they may take time to become functional and their role to promote community resilience to be evaluated.
The implication of citizen in communal governance can be catalyzed through research projects as the ones described here. Thus, comments from participants spoke to the idea that the working groups should evolve into advisory committees to the town council, as well as to other levels of government, in particular the provincial and federal environment ministries. On the other hand, some solicited members of the community decided not to join the working group because they estimate that this work should be done by the government or because they doubted any concrete outcomes would result from this undertaking. Some were also discouraged by the magnitude of anticipated change, making realistic options hard to find.
For research projects as the ones described here, it is imperative to have a facilitator that is a long-time resident of the area. This echoes the findings of Aubé, Guillemot, Chouinard and Plante (see New Brunswick and Quebec case studies) on the role of local facilitators and the importance of establishing relationship of confidence between the researchers and the communities.