Adapting to Climate Change

Adapting to Climate Change

Climate change presents both challenges and opportunities for Prairie communities and resource sectors. To reduce these risks and to take advantage of potential opportunities, we must adapt to the changes in our climate today and those expected to occur in the decades to come.

What is “Climate Change Adaptation”?

Adaptation to climate change is any activity that reduces the negative impacts of a changing climate and/or takes advantage of the new opportunities that may emerge due to these changes. Successful adaptation does not mean that the negative impacts of climate change will not be felt; only that its effects will be less severe compared to what would be experienced had no adaptation occurred.

Climate adaptation includes steps that are taken before impacts are observed (anticipatory) and after impacts have been felt (reactive). Both anticipatory and reactive adaptation can be planned (i.e., the result of deliberate decisions). In most circumstances, anticipatory and planned adaptation actions will be more effective and incur lower costs in the long term than reactive adaptation efforts.

Adaptation actions usually do not take place in response to climate change alone. Rather, planned adaptation efforts take into consideration a range of factors (economic, social and natural). Adaptation actions need to consider the potential synergies or trade-offs between these different priorities.

Want to learn more about climate change adaptation?  A good starting point is Natural Resources Canada’s Adaptation 101.

The Adaptation Process - Stages and Steps

In general, planned adaptation goes through a series of four basic steps:

  • Understanding and raising awareness of the risks posed by climate change and its potential impacts.
  • Developing a plan for how to reduce these impacts.
  • Implementing the planned adaptation actions.
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of implemented actions and learning from this experience.

The cycle is then repeated—as climate change adaptation is an ongoing, iterative process.

From: Eyzaguirre, J. & Warren, F.J. (2014). Adaptation: Linking research and practice. In Warren, F.J. & Lemmen, D.S. (Eds.), Canada in a changing climate: Sector perspectives on impacts and adaptation (p. 253–­286). Ottawa: Government of Canada.


Phases in the adaptation process include awareness, preparation, implementation and iterative learning. The seven steps are:

  1. Awareness of climate change: The adaptation process begins once an individual or organization becomes aware of a changing climate as a threat or opportunity.
  2. Awareness of the need to adapt: An awareness of the magnitude of the problem helps to identify adaptation as a solution.
  3. Mobilizing resources: Awareness can lead individuals and organizations to dedicate human and/or financial resources to help clarify the nature of threats or opportunities.
  4. Building capacity to adapt: Applying scientific information, financial resources and skills to focused activities such as issue screening, risk assessment and in-depth analysis to generate the understanding needed for informed decision making.
  5. Implementing targeted adaptation actions: Concrete actions are put in place to reduce vulnerability (risk or exposure) to climate change and/or to take advantage of opportunities.
  6. Measuring and evaluating progress: Measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of adaptation actions and related assumptions and uncertainties provides the feedback necessary for improved management.

Resources for Adaptation