Adaptation to climate change |  Quebec faces a “major challenge”

Adaptation to climate change | Quebec faces a “major challenge”

If Quebec’s vulnerability to climate change is better documented, much work remains to be done in terms of adaptation measures, underscores a report by the Ouranos Consortium released on Tuesday.

Updated yesterday at 11:58pm.


Ariane Kroll

Ariane Krol The press

“A big challenge”

Quebec’s vulnerability to climate change is beginning to be better documented, but implementation of adaptation responses “is unequal across sectors and remains a major challenge for some environments,” the document said.

This nearly 130-page report is part of a comprehensive overview published by Natural Resources Canada entitled Canada in a Changing Climate. Engineer Angelica Alberti-Dufort, specialist in research and knowledge mobilization at Ouranos, is the lead author of the Quebec chapter.

While reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions remains a priority to “avoid worst-case scenarios,” climate change is nonetheless “inevitable,” the Quebec chapter recalled.

“The goal of adaptation is to learn to live with climate change. »

+ 1 to 3 °C

The province’s average temperature has already warmed by 1°C to 3°C depending on the region since 1950, and without major measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the rise is likely to continue, Ouranos warns. It could be 3.5°C in 2050 and more than 6°C in 2080 compared to the 1981-2010 period, the organization estimates.


More than three-quarters of Quebec’s population live in urban areas that already face problems that are being exacerbated by climate change, Ouranos recalls. In addition to heat islands and stormwater management, they are generally built near watercourses, making them vulnerable to flooding, as in 2017 and 2019. In eastern Quebec, it is more erosion and marine flooding that threatens coastal communities.

Adaptation to climate change Quebec faces a major challenge


Section of Route 132 washed away by the waves at La Martre, Gaspésie

Winner and Loser

The contrasting effects of climate change are particularly visible in agriculture. While several crops, including soybeans, corn, and certain forage crops, could produce better yields due to the lengthening of the growing season, other crops better suited to cool regions, such as canola, barley, and wheat, could suffer from the increased heat.

Quebec could benefit if it manages to expand production further north – soybeans and grain corn, but also apples and grapes.

1660117995 602 Adaptation to climate change Quebec faces a major challenge


The lengthening of the growing season could benefit some crops, such as corn and soybeans, while others could suffer, such as wheat.

On the other hand, warmer autumns, mild spells and winter rains can harm crops used to feed cattle, including alfalfa. Climate change can also promote disease and weeds, affecting the quality and quantity of crops, and affecting livestock.

Indigenous inspired

More frequent winter thaws and generally milder temperatures are shortening the period of frost, making fishing, hunting and trapping trips “across Quebec” less safe, the report points out. For Indigenous people, this is a real livelihood problem, but many have already taken steps to adapt, the report notes.

For example, faced with the decline of the caribou herd on the Ungava Peninsula, seven Aboriginal nations formed a Round Table to coordinate herd management and promote their recovery. The actions of indigenous communities aimed at future generations are “a source of inspiration and resilience for all societies,” emphasizes Ouranos.


“Adaptation measures are often taken after devastating climate events,” the authors state.

The 1996 Saguenay flood, for example, prompted a commission of inquiry that resulted in a dam safety law. The 2017 and 2019 floods prompted Quebec to update its floodplain mapping. Coastal erosion and flooding have also prompted investment in eastern Quebec, most notably in Percé with the rehabilitation of the Anse du Sud shoreline.

1660117996 183 Adaptation to climate change Quebec faces a major challenge


Before and after the works on the Percé coast

lack of knowledge

“There is still a great deal of knowledge missing, particularly in relation to social sciences and adaptation methods,” the Quebec chapter points out, however, and calls for more research.

Certainly, Montreal’s strategy for dealing with extreme heat shows that certain interventions, such as home visits and daily phone calls, “appeared to have reduced mortality” among sick and socially isolated seniors. But the increasing health effects of heat waves or other climatic hazards coupled with variables that “translate social deprivation” (being single or living alone, having contact with relatives or participating in social activities) have “small Quebec work” on item made.