Patricia Manuel, Dal researcher

Patricia Manuel, a researcher at Dalhousie University, is looking at who is most vulnerable in the areas where coastal flooding is most likely in Nova Scotia. (CBC)

The federal government's decision to kill the long form census is hampering the ability to prepare for climate change effects in Nova Scotia, according to a Dalhousie University researcher.

Patricia Manuel is looking at who is most vulnerable in the areas where coastal flooding is most likely.

"Our data cannot reliably be compared to previous years to see if we are becoming more vulnerable or less vulnerable," she said.

Manuel said Statistics Canada has suppressed survey results from areas with a low response rate in the 2011 voluntary national household survey, on the grounds it might be possible to identify households that did respond.

Manuel and her team use the information on race, education and income level to build a portrait of which population areas may be least able to adapt to climate change.

"In terms of long term planning, we want to know if we have vulnerable people continuing to live in areas that over time become even more risky … where people are most vulnerable is where you want to direct your efforts first in a world of limited resources," she said.

Manuel said Statistics Canada has withheld data from 27 of 1,600 so-called "dissemination areas" in Nova Scotia. Each area usually represents a population of between 400 to 700 people.

Even in the vast majority of dissemination areas where Statistics Canada has released survey data, the participation rate dropped from more than 90 per cent in the long form census to a little less than 74 per cent in Nova Scotia.

Manuel made the comments while attending a one day conference of government, academics and NGOs in Truro on measures being taken to adapt to climate change.