Nova Scotia

Ottawa issues tender for Atlantic climate change hub

The Atlantic Canada climate change hub will be similar to ones already operating in British Columbia and Quebec. Plans are also in the works to establish them for Ontario, the Prairies and the North.

Organization will consider issues affecting all four provinces and more local matters

Waves and debris covered the roadway near Lawrencetown Beach, N.S., after a storm in January 2018. Storm surge is one major climate change concerns in Atlantic Canada. (Submitted by Allan Zilkowsky)

The federal government has issued a tender for an organization to operate a regional climate change hub for Atlantic Canada.

Jason Hollett, executive director of climate change for Nova Scotia's Environment Department, said the hub will be similar to ones already operating in British Columbia and Quebec. Plans are also in the works to establish them for the Prairies and the North.

"The purpose of the organization is to help provide climate data, climate information to users in the provinces that are making decisions on things like investments or policy, so they can start to incorporate the impacts of climate change in those decisions," Hollett said in an interview.

While much data is available on a national scale, Hollett said it's important for the Atlantic provinces to have more regionally focused data. The tender closes next month and Hollett said the hope is the successful operator will be up and running some time in 2021.

'We're seeing those impacts right now'

In the case of Nova Scotia, there are many things the province can and should be focusing on, but nothing is more pressing than threats of storm surge and sea-level rise, said Hollett.

"We feel those impacts and we're seeing those impacts right now, and they're only going to get worse over time."

There are also challenges unique to different parts of the province. Hollett points to the irony of the southwestern part of Nova Scotia becoming increasingly challenged by drought conditions late in the summer while northern parts of the province worry each year about increased risk of flooding.

"I think that demonstrates the very regional and local impacts of climate change and we need to really drill down into that data and information and provide pretty specific information so that you know how to plan for what these impacts may look like in the future."

Jason Hollett is executive director of the climate change team for Nova Scotia's Department of Environment (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

The expectation is the hub will have a central location, with representatives also based in each of the four provinces. There would be provincial and federal government representation on a type of governing body to help set priorities and direction for the organization, but Hollett said they also want input from municipalities, the private sector and other interested organizations.

A recent report from the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices highlights some of the practical implications of climate change, including a surge in the cost of natural disasters and the insurable costs related to individual climate events, said Hollett.

That's why it will also be important for the hub to help identify ways to adapt to the realities of climate change, he said.

"Who we focus on and how we focus on moving that forward is going to be really important to make sure we avoid or at least mitigate the worst impacts from climate change."