Our climate is changing. To protect the legacy of Canada’s National Capital Region, we need to understand what changes are coming our way and how they will impact our lives.

With the NCC’s climate change adaptation project, we are studying these changes and taking action to limit their impacts. This project is a commitment under the NCC Sustainable Development Strategy, 2018–2023.

The NCC’s climate change adaptation project

This three-year project aims to ensure that the NCC’s work stands the test of time and climate change. We’re looking at everything the NCC manages, from green space to built assets, and how we use them.

We are working with partners to better understand vulnerability and risk, and align solutions. This project will

  • raise awareness of climate change risks in the region;
  • allow us to plan for the future; and
  • help us prioritize actions to increase the region’s resilience for the benefit of all Canadians.

The climate change adaptation project consists of three phases: climate projections study, vulnerability and risk assessment, and the development of an adaptation plan.

Phase 1 (completed): Climate Projections Study

The NCC, in partnership with the City of Ottawa, commissioned a comprehensive climate change projections study for the National Capital Region. The study included feedback from staff and stakeholders, such as the Ville de Gatineau, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Centre for Climate Services, and conservation authorities.

Key findings

The study concluded that, by the 2050s, under a high-emission scenario, we can expect to see many changes in the National Capital Region.

Earlier springs

  • Spring will start two weeks earlier.

Hotter summers

  • There will be four times as many days over 30°C.

Later autumns

  • Fall will start three weeks later.

Shorter winters with less snow and fewer cold days

  • Winter will be shorter by five weeks.
  • Annual snowfall will decrease by 20%.
  • There will be 35% fewer days below -10°C.
  • There may be more freezing rain.

A warmer and wetter climate

  • Annual precipitation (spring, fall, winter) will increase by 8%.
  • The maximum daily precipitation will increase by 14%.
  • The annual average temperature will increase by 3.2°C.
  • Warming will create favourable conditions for storms, tornadoes and wildfires.

Datasets

A complete and updated version of the datasets presented in this report is available on the City of Ottawa’s Open Ottawa website. The online datasets include an Excel version of the results, as well as netCDF files with more detail than that provided in the report (e.g. indices calculated for each model and cell).

Phase 2 (to be completed by spring 2022): Vulnerability and Risk Assessment

Phase 2 will look at how climate change projections will affect NCC assets, operations and programs. It will also compare the risks to the NCC with those facing our regional partners.

Climate change is already affecting us. For example, the floods of 2017 and 2019 had significant impacts on the multi-use pathway network. The tornados in 2018 impacted trees on NCC-managed lands in Ottawa and Gatineau. The extreme heat episodes in summer 2021 impacted crops in the Greenbelt, and increased energy demand to cool down buildings. Climate change will also continue to negatively impact popular programs such as cross-country skiing in Gatineau Park and skating on the Rideau Canal.

In this phase, we will

  • define potential impacts;
  • determine the organization’s vulnerability to them; and
  • identify the impacts that pose the greatest risk.

Phase 2 will be completed in the spring of 2022, with the publication of a climate risk assessment report.

The NCC has already commissioned a risk assessment of the effects of climate change on the Rideau Canal Skateway. In 2022, based on this assessment, the NCC entered a four-year partnership with Carleton University.

Phase 3 (to be completed by fall 2023): The Adaptation Plan

In this final phase of the project, the NCC will develop a 10-year climate adaptation plan. The plan will include actions to manage the greatest climate risks, as well as the risks shared by the NCC, the City of Ottawa and the Ville de Gatineau.