Extreme weather events (or natural hazards) such as drought, wildfire, and flooding are part of Saskatchewan’s history and have significant economic repercussions for the region. The 2001-2002 drought caused a reduction in agricultural production of more than $1.6 billion. The forest fires in Saskatchewan in 2015 cost in excess of $100 million, destroyed over 1.7 million hectares, and forced more than 10,000 people to evacuate their homes in northern communities. To understand how Saskatchewan’s climate will change in the future, climate projections were gathered from the Canadian Centre for Climate Services and the Climate Atlas of Canada, using data from 30 global climate models adjusted to produce locally specific results. The results show that over the next 80 years, global climate models project that Saskatoon can expect: warmer overall temperatures; more hot days; increased precipitation; changes in precipitation timing; increasingly variable seasons and more intense storms. A 2018 report from the Saskatchewan Research Council completed a province-wide risk analysis of natural hazards in Saskatchewan. The report plots the overall risk (consequences severity and likelihood) of a plausible worst-case scenario for each type of natural hazard under current and projected future climate conditions. The plausible worst-case scenarios come from actual experiences within the province’s last 100 years. Results from the report suggest changing climate conditions will slightly increase the risk of experiencing natural hazards throughout the province. For example, warmer temperatures will increase demand on the water and waste water utility and delivery system.
The City of Saskatoon is proactively preparing itself to face impacts and mitigate risks to key infrastructure, programs and services posed by a warming climate and more frequent and intense storms through their Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan was developed in 2019 and contains both the Low Emissions Community Plan to address mitigation and Local Actions: The City of Saskatoon’s Adaptation Strategy. Over the next 80 years, global climate models project that Saskatoon can expect: warmer overall temperatures; more hot days; increased precipitation; changes in precipitation timing; increasingly variable seasons and more intense storms. Given the wide reach and great uncertainty associated with the anticipated impacts, however, there is high potential to affect the City’s vision to be “a great place to live, work, learn, and play.” Failure to consider a range of changing climate conditions for long-term urban development, design, and strategic planning could result in asset damage, unexpected expenses, societal and economic suffering, and missed opportunity.
In response, Saskatoon’s Adaptation Strategy focuses on reducing the risks, damages, and impacts of climate change through infrastructure improvement projects, natural infrastructure, and emergency response programs. The Plan has two components: Local Actions: Saskatoon’s Adaptation Strategy (Part One and Part Two). The Strategy builds from the findings of their previous report and outlines tangible actions and initiatives for corporate climate adaptation that are organized into four resiliency focus areas: Decisions, Staff, Services, and Assets.