OUR MISSION: ACER ACER supports communities, government agencies and corporations in taking action to reduce biodiversity loss and strengthen climate resilience by increasing and monitoring urban and riparian zone forest canopy.

Human Settlements, Energy, and Industry



ADAPTATION in this context means to respond to expected or real changes in climate conditions or their effects as an opportunity to reduce harm and to increase benefits.

Choices of programs and methods for adaptation need to be reviewed carefully for benefits, costs, effectiveness, and efficiency and whether, in fact, they are possible.

Since the 1940s normal temperatures have increased. The 1990s recorded the greatest change or deviation from normal temperatures. The increased temperatures reduced the need for heating energy in the last decade of the twentieth century.

The effects from El Nino and La Nina events in the Pacific Ocean increased Ontario temperatures in the same years. These events caused up to a 20% warming, that is an overall decrease in the heating-degree days (HDD) of 20%.

Atmospheric-oceanic events add to the already complex factors that influence natural variability in climate. Climate change projections for changes in temperature add to the natural uncertainty and variability of future heating demands.

Climate change and heat island effects in our big cities, such as Toronto, are considered as “likely” contributing factors to the decline in HDD in the last (20th) century.

The lows are not so low now and the minimum highs are higher! Toronto as a heat island will experience new minimum highs. Individuals are already taking some adaptive measures, for example, planting shade trees, using lighter colors in clothing, and buildings with sun blocking glass. The city has provided areas for heat relief for the public in the downtown core in recent years. The new Toronto Water Cooling Project is described in “Success” on this website.

Increased use of public transportation will cool the city since less heat would be released from the reduced number of automobiles.

Solar, wind, and heat pumps as off-grid generation of electricity using less or no fossil fuel, and public transportation, energy conserving appliances, better insulation of buildings are all measures which reduce the amount of heat released. Reducing use of fossil fuel generated electricity and use of vehicles also reduces the carbon dioxide emissions, or mitigates the effects of climate change.

Green roof projects and designing buildings, as ecosystems in an envelope that can regulate internal conditions regardless of seasonal conditions, are two new programs responding to climate change. Many are insulating their homes and sealing heat leaks because of increased fuel costs. This also serves to reduce the amount of fossil fuel burned and hence the CO2 and heat released. See the Section, Mitigation.
Much more planning and action is needed by all concerned to reduce the effect of increased temperatures due to climate change.

The following findings are based on a special report on the science of climate change to the Ontario Legislature from ECO. They should be put into the context of these 4 charts.

There is a need to move beyond debate and to focus on action. Key science evidence shows that human-induced climate change is in fact occurring and may be causing serious environmental damage for our future.

Some successes to date:

  • Hazardous wastes: 2001 a proposal to adopt US land disposal restrictions, 2002 new hazardous waste fees and improved information gathering, closure of hospital incinerators were noted.
  • Sprawl and Transportation: new Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal to deal with urban sprawl and transportation, especially in the Greater Toronto Area.
  • Oak Ridges Moraine: set aside land to contain urban sprawl through a moratorium in 2001 then a Conservation Act 2001 Conservation Plan in 2002

Source: Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner Ontario – A special report

1. Choose one recommendation on the above charts and research the steps required to implement this adaptive action in your area.

Agriculture and Forestry

In response to global warming, Ontario’s climate is projected to warm by more than 5 oC in the next century. Last century the temperature only increased by 0.7 oC.

Even small increases in present temperatures increase vulnerability to impacts of change. A subtle warming of 1-2 oC can significantly change land use and biodiversity especially in rural areas. Warmer annual temperatures will shift the 2800 CHU line northward and land use changes could be made from wooded or wetland areas to agriculture. 2900 CHU is the present northern range of Carolinian forest in Ontario. The area with at least 3200 CHU shows 4% forest cover remaining. With affordable irrigation these areas may lose even more Carolinian woods to become market garden crops. See Ecosystems sections.

Recreation and Tourism

The length of seasons for recreational activities will change as periods of warmer weather grow longer and winters become shorter, even milder. Venues and support for the sports and recreational facilities will have to adjust. For example, shifts in use from snowmobiles to watercraft and from snowboarding to skateboarding. Recreational boating may be vulnerable with lower water levels.

Beaches may grow bigger as more shoreline appears. Water quality maybe affected by algal blooms. Waste water/sewage treatment locations, more vulnerable to overflow or bypasses during major thawing or heavy rain events, may limit water contact recreation due to bacterial outbreaks, for example, E. coli
Plant and animal species will change as some are overstressed and tend to migrate north with temperature changing the appearance and behaviour of natural ecosystems.

Ontario fall colour tours may be less colorful or change their timing, as deciduous trees do not experience the cold nights and warm days needed to trigger fall changes. The tourism industry will have to check carefully to adjust their programs.

Source for all 4 above charts:

International Joint Commission (IJC) Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region. May2003 www.ijc.org

The lower water levels of the Great Lakes make the Seaway vulnerable. Reduced tonnage per vessel may be needed to be able to navigate up to and through the Great Lakes. Alternate vessels and alternate routes may have to be considered. See Section 7.2.1a Hydrology.

The table below addresses the climate change issue of Seaway activity on the US side only.

Source : International Joint Commission (IJC) Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region. May2003 www.ijc.org

1. Note that all cargoes listed as commodities are subject to lower water levels.
Which commodity has decreased tonnage in this period?
2. Calculate the increase in total tonnage between 1991 and 2000.
3. Calculate the increase in tonnage for the 2 yellow and 2 chosen red commodities.

ACTIVITY 3 Research:
What is the Ontario equivalent in Seaway usage for this period?