Climate Change Impacts in Relation to Wellbeing in Nova Scotia

Project Details

Nova Scotia, Canada; N 45° 14′ 11.5584″, W 63° 8′ 31.9092″
Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change
2020 – 2022
Team Member(s):

ESSA staff: Jimena Eyzaguirre, Cedar Morton, Caitlin Semmens

Partners: Richard Boyd, Charles Cuell, and Mel Reasoner

Service Area(s):
Climate Change Adaptation
Services Employed:
Risk & Vulnerability Assessment, Science Communication & Knowledge Synthesis

The Problem We Aimed to Solve

Effects of climate change are already being felt in Nova Scotia through changing air temperatures, increasing rainfall, coastal erosion, and extreme storms, which affect people’s abilities to live a good life. While these events will continue to impact social wellbeing and resources, climate change may also result in benefits such as enhanced food production through a lengthened growing season. Understanding the ultimate impact climate change has and will have on the social wellbeing of Nova Scotians, particularly disadvantaged or vulnerable populations, is crucial for effective, efficient, and equitable climate change adaptation management. Most climate change risk assessments are high level and sectoral, ignoring non-climate factors that shape climate change vulnerability and failing to illuminate social disparities in climate change risks and root causes. The province of Nova Scotia was intent on approaching this assessment differently by adopting a risk assessment framework, relating climate change vulnerability to stocks and flows of capital, including: access to nature’s benefits, safe communities, fulfilling livelihoods (education opportunities, physical and mental health support), financial stability, and affordable housing.

How We Helped

ESSA used a Well-being at Risk Index (WRI) to clarify relationships between climate change impacts and associated risks to the wellbeing of Nova Scotians, examining three future periods (2030s, 2050s, and 2080s) and using two future greenhouse gas concentration scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) to develop 51 indicators of Climate Impacts across Nova Scotia’s census divisions. 19 climate-related impacts and corresponding statements were defined (e.g., drought, fluvial flooding, sea-level rise and coastal flooding, vector-borne diseases, and wildfire), which govern the specific indicators to include in the WRI. A total of 175 indicators were researched and constructed for sub-indices in the WRI: Exposure, Sensitivity, and Low Coping Capacity. We examine both adverse and beneficial impacts of climate change to different sectors, determine whether these impacts will increase or decrease into the future under both scenarios, highlight areas that are particularly sensitive and exposed to compounding and cascading impacts, and reveal how climate change will disproportionately affect marginalized communities throughout Nova Scotia. ESSA successfully superimposes a wellbeing and capitals framework with a climate change vulnerability framework to come up with a relative rating for each census division across Nova Scotia.

Our Project’s Impacts

Our work reveals that flooding, wildfire, and extreme heat impacting agriculture are the greatest climate hazard concerns for the end of the century, and that adaptation management is critical as climate threats shift over time. Our work also reveals that climate change impacts on wellbeing will disproportionately affect individuals and communities with historic and ongoing disadvantages, and deeper systematic exploration on how racialized and marginalized communities currently experience vulnerability to climate hazards is needed. Our work shows that enhancing belief in government, work-life balance, personal safety and security, incomes and income inequality, educational outcomes and quality, and housing affordability would help position Nova Scotians to better cope with today’s climate-related impacts and future impacts. Results from this work are assisting the province of Nova Scotia in identifying climate adaptation activities, making informed decisions about prioritizing those activities in a way that best addresses the needs of Nova Scotians, and to help the province meet its obligations to keep the public appraised of critical risk information.