Ontario’s Climate Change Challenge

At the last meeting of the Niagara Escarpment Commission we received a staff report and a provincial discussion paper on the need to plan for the impacts of climate change. After one of the coldest winters on record, some may be skeptical about the issue of global warming. However, if we look at the global changes rather than local events, it is clear that the temperature of the earth has increased fourteen of the first fifteen years of this century. The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change states that: “Two numbers are vital for Ontarians to be aware of: 4, the number of degrees in this century that the planet is on track to warm by, and 6, in trillions of dollars of new economic growth that will result from moving to a low-carbon economy.”

Some initiatives are already underway to lessen our impact on the climate. As  a province, we have implemented a plan to completely eliminate coal plants from hydro generation. Through the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Plan, the Greenbelt Plan and the Growth Plan, we have created the largest ecological preservation area in the world. This has effectively eliminated urban sprawl and sets the stage for more affordable housing. As a province, we have started the electrification of some parts of the GO transportation network. Also, we have strengthened our building codes to ensure that new buildings are more efficient.

   Work is already underway to forecast the impact on the varieties of fruits and vegetables that may have to be eliminated or moved to more northern zones to survive. A four degree increase in the mean temperature of our planet will have catastrophic consequences. The warm water blob off the west coast is only three  degrees higher yet some food sources  have disappeared having a catastrophic impact on bird populations . Severe weather events are already driving up insurance costs and severely damaging infrastructure. Food security and costs will be an early problem as climate change impacts where our food is grown and affects our water supply.

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has prepared a vision in their discussion paper:

  • To establish Ontario as a leader in climate change mitigation and science;
  • To leave a legacy of a healthy world for our children and furure generations;
  • To redesign and build a strong carbon-neutral economy, communities, infrastructure and energy; and,
  • To protect ecosystems, including air, land and water.

Brian Baty is the directly-elected Regional Councillor for the Town of Pelham, a Commissioner with the Niagara Escarpment Commission and a Director on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority brian.baty@niagararegion.ca