Living in Toronto, it can be easy to tune out climate change because it still has not affected us nearly as much as it has other parts of the world, like the islands in the Pacific, which are literally sinking because of rising sea levels. Toronto does not have a hurricane season that has proven to be coming back worse and worse each year. However, the lack of an extreme weather event does not mean that the city is not affected. The first September long weekend being the most recent example with its record-breaking high temperatures. It is important to realize that these severe and unpredictable weather events happening elsewhere will be on the city’s doorstep eventually. Turning a blind eye to the weather events caused around the world by climate change will only serve to harm Toronto.
Torontonians can look forward to much hotter and longer summers as well as more flooding. The city is already known for its at times unbearable humidity that makes 27 degrees Celsius feel like 35. The humidity will only continue to increase according to a climate change study done by SENES Consultants Limited. Every summer will get hotter and wetter. Torontonians are already used to a couple of heat waves during the summer, but eventually this will just become one long heat wave. Climate change is not just about increasing temperatures, hence the reason the term has evolved from global warming into climate change. Toronto will be affected in a number of ways beyond increasingly hotter and longer summers.
In the beginning of August, Toronto had some very dramatic rainfall, which in turn led to really bad flooding that even caused a power outage. This will become a much more regular occurrence according to the same climate change study predicting that Toronto will be getting hotter. Not only does flooding cause massive delays, it also does extensive damage to the city’s infrastructure, which ultimately means that climate change is going to be a very expensive problem falling on the taxpayers. There needs to be viable long-term solutions to the issue that the city is facing. Fewer cars and more bikes on the road would be a great place to start.
It is not only Toronto’s summers that are going to get worse. Even though the city’s winters are getting milder, the climate change study predicts that ice storms like the one in December 2013, which left half the city without power for days, will also increase. Ice storms are extremely damaging and scary, and anyone who experienced the one in 2013 in Toronto knows that well. The weight of climate change on the city and its resources is only going to get heavier. Erratic weather events will make it harder to lead normal lives. A severe ice storm puts everything at a standstill and the city has to pour enormous resourses into mitigating the situation.
This past summer has provided direct empirical evidence of the damaging effects of climate change. From the record-breaking high temperatures to the flooding, there can be no denial that while Toronto is not suffering as much as other nations under the weight of climate change, the city is affected. Climate change is going to be a very expensive problem for the city to solve. The more people are aware of how it will directly affect their lives, perhaps the more willing they will be in trying to do their own part to minimize their carbon footprint. In a city of almost three million people, everyone doing just a little bit would translate into a lot. What kind of city do the citizens of Toronto want to leave to future generations, a hot, smoggy, flooded one?
On June 7, the province of Ontario held its provincial election which saw Kathleen Wynne lose to Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford. The Ontario Progressive Conservatives also managed to win a majority government. With the pendulum swinging from left to right in Ontario, it has left many people wondering how big the changes are going to be under Ford. While the issues are far ranging, the focus here is going to be on Premier Ford’s approach to sustainability. The earth is getting hotter every year with more and more extreme weather events. That is why sustainability and environmental protection are such a vital topic. Premier Ford has already axed a number of green programs. If there was any doubt before the election about Ford’s approach to the environment and sustainability, there isn’t now: the proof is in the actions he has already taken.
Let’s rewind to the Harper government and their approach to science. To say that there was a contentious relationship between the two would be an understatement. Under Prime Minister Harper, not only was funding to scientific research cut, but scientists were muzzled from reporting their findings supporting climate change and steps to prevent it. How relevant is scientific data in the face of massive development proposals that stand to make a few people very rich? Not very relevant to Harper and the PC. This highlights the PC Party’s willingness to ignore science and data in the face of profit. When Doug Ford was Toronto city council and his brother Rob Ford mayor, the dynamic duo was very outspoken about their preference for cars over bikes. After all, oil companies can only make money off of cars, not bikes.
During his campaign for Premier, Doug Ford made it obvious that environmental protection is not a priority. At one point, he proposed opening up Ontario’s protected green belt to developers, something he almost immediately flip-flopped on due to public backlash. That is a disturbing look into Ford’s mind and priorities: profit over sustainability. Of course, there was also the usual rhetoric about slashing gas prices, which is to be expected of Ford and the PC Party. The right wing refuses to give up their fossil fuels. Ford was also outspoken about wanting to get rid of the cap and trade program that has provided companies a financial incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. Because preserving the earth for future generations is not a good enough reason. Add to this, his general lack of platform in the final days of his campaign especially regarding environmental policy.
Over two months have passed since Ford was sworn in as Premier of Ontario and he is already making big waves. He has scrapped the GreenOn initiative. The program was meant to encourage people with financial rebates to make their homes more environmentally friendly. Gone already is the cap and trade program. Even though his actions do imply he is waging a war against green initiatives, there is hope and progress. The Trudeau government, which is dedicated to green causes, has poured money into research aimed to understand and mitigate climate change. This includes monitoring and protecting the oceans and creating greener technologies. So even though the Ontario government has taken steps backwards, the federal government is light years ahead of the previous Conservative government.
Even though the new provincial government is a far cry from what an environmentally conscious person would want in power, private citizens can make their voice heard keeping the public discussion open on social media channels and contributing to the reduction of carbon footprint. Driving a car in Toronto is already an unpleasant experience; therefore, it’s much easier to take the TTC or ride a bike. Just imagine every time you take your bike or the public transit you are sticking it to Doug Ford. Every time the premier slashes another green policy or implements a destructive one, citizens have to respond and take advantage of the fact that Canada is a country where the people can express their views. When the government fails to provide and protect, it falls onto the citizens to enact positive change.