Urban Adaptation to Climate Change

Adapting Cities to Global Temperature Rise

Research, Policy, Planning and Saint John, New Brunswick.


Climate change is a natural process that earth has been subject to since inception. The earth’s climate constantly dips and rises between too cold and too hot for humanity and that is completely natural. A new phenomenon however, known as anthropogenic atmospheric temperature rise, is currently on the horizon. It means humans have been causing something called ‘the enhanced greenhouse effect’ since the industrial revolution . In short, due to an increase in combusting particular oils like petroleum and butane, there is an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide and methane are of the most common. These gases are naturally occurring, but humanity has augmented their atmospheric ratio. It’s causing the world to heat up, and quick; threatening our natural ecosystems, ice sheets, weather patterns, sea-levels and more important functions, the list is too long to go on . In a global context, atmospheric warming is emerging as the most imminent threat to the integrity of our planet . It has captured the primary focus of governments, academia and major international organizations. Here’s the main issue: a life-threatening rise in temperature is happening, it is our fault, and we aren’t doing enough to manage it. What does it mean to manage temperature rise though? Modern science has divided this answer into two academies: Mitigation and Adaptation. Mitigation efforts are concerned with reducing the human impact on the natural climate. Mitigation will reduce the warming effect. On the other hand, adaptation aims to reduce the risk and hazards associated with temperature rise. Adaptation will protect us from the inevitable danger . Both of these faculties are vitally important for different areas in the world. For example, mitigation is extremely important for countries like India that rely heavily on coal for energy; while adaptation is a must for coastal cities who are at risk of ocean flooding. The literature on these subjects is endless. This essay will be facilitating the current discussion on the latter of the two, adaptation, particularly in the geographical context of cities. The first sections of this essay will outline the breakthroughs made in urban adaptation, and why this topic is an emerging narrative. Canadian cities will then be discussed, with Saint John, New Brunswick as a case study. The final section of this paper will outline the discussion being had by urban planners that are concerned with adapting to climate change. The intent of this paper will be to tie together important literature in this subject as it concerns Canadian cities and how they are/can be planned in response.