Visualizing flood risk, enabling participation and supporting climate change adaptation using the Geoweb: the case of coastal communities in Nova Scotia, Canada

Abstract

Impacts of climate change have been observed in natural systems and are expected to intensify in future decades (IPCC in Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPPC, Geneva, 2014). Governments are seeking to establish adaptive measures for minimizing the effects of climate change on vulnerable citizen groups, economic sectors and critical infrastructure (Adger et al. in Global Environ Change 15(2):77–86, 2005. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2004.12.005; Smit and Wandel in Global Environ Change 16(3):282–292, 2006. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.03.008). Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to changing conditions due to rising sea levels and storm event intensification that produce new flood exposures (Richards and Daigle in Government of Prince Edward Island, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2011 http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/ccscenarios.pdf). However, communities oftentimes lack access to locally-relevant climate change information that can support adaptation planning. This research introduces the use of a Geoweb tool for supporting local climate change adaptation efforts in coastal Canadian communities. The Geoweb tool (called “AdaptNS”) is a web-based visualization tool that displays interactive flood exposure maps generated using local climate change projections of sea level rise and storm surge impacts between the years 2000 and 2100. AdaptNS includes participatory features that allow users to identify and share specific locations to protect against present and future coastal flood events. By soliciting feedback from community members, AdaptNS is shown to support local adaptation through the provision of flood exposure visuals, as a platform for identifying adaptation priorities, and as an avenue to communicate local risks to external entities that could facilitate local adaptation initiatives (e.g. upper levels of government). Future Geoweb research directions include improving the visualization of climate change projection uncertainties, the expansion of informational and participation capabilities, and understanding the potential for long-term adoption of Geoweb tools in adaptation decision-making.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Canadian International Development Research Centre for support via the Partnership for Canadian-Caribbean Community Climate Change Adaptation (ParCA) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for its support via the Geothink.ca Partnership Grant and the Insight Development Grants program.

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Correspondence to Peter A. Johnson.

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Funding for this research has been provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). This research involved human participants, and research was conducted according to the rules and regulations governing research with human subjects at the home institution of the research team. Ethical clearance was obtained for this research, which included an assessment of informed consent, participant recruitment, study protocols, and data storage and confidentiality. Evidence of this ethical review can be provided upon request.

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Minano, A., Johnson, P.A. & Wandel, J. Visualizing flood risk, enabling participation and supporting climate change adaptation using the Geoweb: the case of coastal communities in Nova Scotia, Canada. GeoJournal 83, 413–425 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-017-9777-8

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Keywords

  • Geoweb
  • Flooding
  • Visualization
  • Adaptation
  • Community
  • Participatory