Windsor/Essex – As news feeds are flooding with images of the estimated 4 million people across the world rallying for climate action in advance of today’s kickoff to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City, Essex Region Conservation is continuing to work with municipalities across the region, the local health unit and others to further a regional Climate Change Strategy.
“The climate determines almost everything about how we design, build and live in our communities,” says Claire Sanders, ERCA’s Climate Change Specialist. “Ontario is warming faster than the global average, so action must be taken now to protect the safety, prosperity and livability of our region in response to problems we are seeing today, and to plan and prepare for those we will experience in the future.”
There is no question that the impacts of a changing climate will affect ecosystem health, the resilience of our infrastructure, our ability to grow food, the health of our lakes and the health of our residents. A survey from Abacus Data, released on August 12, confirms 82 per cent of Canadians say climate change is a serious problem.
Climate change means more extreme weather – heat waves and droughts, and fewer cold days. Daily temperatures are projected to significantly increase in every season, putting some of our region’s most vulnerable people at risk. These high and prolonged temperatures can also impact air quality, increase the risk of fire, facilitate the spread of harmful diseases. “The increase in ticks carrying lyme disease is a direct correlation to climate change,” says Sanders. “And five years ago, did you ever think we would have to worry about mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus here in Windsor/Essex? These are all climate change related.”
These extreme temperatures have also begun to prohibit outdoor activities, with children already being kept indoors at recess because of extreme heat. Locally, predictions for this upcoming decade include the number of days over 30 degrees to increase by more than 50% – from the current average of 22 days to 34 days per year. Warmer temperatures will also mean disappearing ice on Lake Erie, which means our already-weakened shorelines will erode faster as a result of direct wave action hitting our shorelines.
Annual precipitation is also expected to increase; and rainfall events in general are projected to become more intense and extreme. In 2019, with continuous rain and record-high lake and river levels, there was nowhere for water to go. Among other impacts, homes and roads were destroyed, farmers struggled to prepare their fields before crop insurance deadlines, and ERCA’s own restoration program couldn’t plant nearly 20,000 trees planned for the region.
This year, our region has been under an extended flood watch since April 10 – the longest state of enhanced flood concern in our region’s history. Roads, marinas, trails and Conservation Areas have been closed for the season, and municipalities have distributed tens of thousands of sand bags as a result of high water levels.
In 2016 and 2017, as a result of isolated severe weather events, there were almost 9,000 reports to the City of Windsor of flooding – costing hundreds of millions to clean up each time. The Insurance Bureau of Canada reported the insured losses in the region from the 2016 and 2017 storms totalled $108 million and $124 million respectively.
“There are actions being taken by municipalities across Windsor-Essex to mitigate and adapt to our changing climate, but as individuals, we all have a role to play,” says Sanders. “Actions we can all take to reduce our own carbon footprints include consuming and using less of everything – energy, plastic, water, etc. We can choose to drive and fly less. Raising our thermostats in summer and lowering them in winter will help us to conserve home energy.”
And, as this week also marks National Forests Week, it’s timely to reiterate that as a region, the single most important action that can be undertaken to flight climate change is to protect the forests we have and to find significant parcels of land to plant more trees.
Since 1973, Essex Region Conservation has been conserving and enhancing our region as the Place for Life.
Danielle Breault Stuebing
Director, Communications & Outreach
519-776-5209 ext. 352
Climate Change Specialist
519-776-5209 ext. 388