Government/Policy

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7.2.2.1

This section looks at the Ontario government in context of ways to reduce risks or exposure to the impacts of climate change. The commitments listed are described in global section 7.1.2.1. and given context in this section. Activities for all a.b.c sections are found here.

7.2.2.1abc Ontario Government Policy for emission reduction plans or mitigation of the effects of climate change with respect to international commitments with the United States with respect to water in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

The government of Ontario is committed to a Conservation Culture. Adaptations that reduce the risk to damage from climate change are a great part of this approach.

Conservation of energy by of all sectors reduces the required generation and transmission of electrical energy.

Mitigation strategies to reduce emissions include reviewing coal-fired electrical generating stations status with reference to gas-powered stations, nuclear power stations and encouraging alternative sources of energy production.

The connection and the urgency to do both adaptation and mitigation for climate change is shown in the figure below.

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

ACTIVITY 1
For one of the sectors below:

Research and report the status and plans with respect to mitigation or reduction of emissions addressing future needs and effects of climate change:

  • for Ontario
  • for your municipality
  • for you and your family.

Sectors: Government, Buildings, Transportation, Industry, Agriculture, Forestry, Energy Supply, Waste Management.

Recommendations which need to be supported by government policy for managing the future with respect to climate change are listed below.


The sooner mitigation or emission reduction policies are developed and put into action the more the cost of make the effort can be reduced. The graph below represents the global costs of stabilizing carbon dioxide concentrations at levels higher than 368ppm carbon dioxide concentration in 2000.

RESEARCH  NEEDS (after IJC):

Climate impact assessment is moving toward a more participatory process. Research must include practitioner/stakeholder and researcher views of what is needed to understand climate change, the impacts, and adaptive responses.

Emphasis has been placed on understanding bio-physical systems since mitigation is based on reducing emissions.

More attention must be placed on understanding human and institutional behaviour in the face of a changing climate. Methods must be agreed upon to ensure data are preserved for future reference and use. Sensitivity of the Great Lakes beneficial uses to climate change must be included.

The list requires working and planning together within Ontario communities about what needs to be done.

Research needs are listed by seven themes:

  • Monitoring, surveillance, and analysis.
  • Climate change scenarios.
  • Model development.
  • Vulnerability, impact, and adaptation assessments.
  • Economic assessment.
  • Adaptation.
  • Communication.

Ontario hosted one of the earliest scientific world conferences on climate change!

Historically Ontario was part of the Canadian scientific community in developing the Montreal Protocol in 1987 an agreement to ban ozone-depleting substances. Not only was this a precedent-setting international effort in itself but it led to the conference hosted in Toronto in 1988.

In 1988, several leading scientific experts presented preliminary results of the current understanding of climate change to a world gathering of scientists, politicians, policy advisors, engineers and others, held in Toronto. This meeting was the first of its kind.

The Prime Ministers of Canada and Norway, environment and energy Ministers and other policy makers from many other governments attended.

The conference participants, in the opening sentences of their formal statement, issued this clear warning to the international community:

1988: Toronto World Conference Participants Statement

“Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.”

Source: Proceedings of the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security, WMO report # 710, P292 (1988).

Some at the time regarded this statement as alarmist. They cautioned for the need to undertake better assessments of the science to better identify the risks – given the complexity and uncertainty related to climate change science. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the IPCC was established and the first global assessment efforts began.

Canadian scientists played a significant role in the IPCC assessment process. Many are from the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Region of Environment Canada.

Canadians represented more than 4% of the scientists involved in the 2001 the third assessment and review (TAR) process. Of these, about two-thirds are with government research agencies and the remainder from academia – the universities.


Source : H. Hengeveld et al., (2002) Science and Impacts of Climate Change CD Presentation Graphics MSC Environment Canada/ ESS Natural Resources Canada, December

ACTIVITY 2
1. What does TAR stand for? WG 1?
2. What percentage of the total of the world’s contributing scientists were Canadian?

ACTIVITY 3 Research
How well does #2 represent Canada by % of the total global population?
Is the % Canadian contribution representation by population for this global project?

Since then other international science conferences on climate change held in Toronto include one on the Urban Heat Island Effect and the most recent State of the Lakes Ecological Conference – SOLEC – The International Joint Commission biennial meeting in 2004.

The Government of Ontario is presently undertaking a review of plans for growth and development while at the same time encouraging a conservation culture. This acknowledges the issues of sustainable growth and communities facing climate change projections. Reducing the need for generating electricity and burning fossil fuels, providing public transportation initiatives support this policy review.

ACTIVITY 4
Check the Government of Ontario website. www.gov.on.ca for further information.

Browse each ministry to check its mandate with respect to environmental and climate change issues. Choose one policy or one ministry and report your findings.

The general public needs to become informed and help the government and agencies set policies and priorities in actions to limit the effects of climate change. As seen in the document below, projections for the future are based on what we know now. Not taking action because of uncertainties increases the risk and costs of damage due to the effects of climate change.

The Uncertainty of Climate Change and Impacts

Modified from www.ijc.org Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region, 2003.

Most impacts of climate change described (in the report) are developed from impact assessments. These assessments are based on case studies of sensitivity to current and historical climate (e.g. extreme events). Climate change scenarios are used as models to project future conditions (e.g. ecosystems and economic sectors).  These projections identify risks due to climate change.

Uncertainties in the causes of climate change, the rate, range and the size of the changes make it more difficult to take actions to deal with impacts of climate change.

This creates a challenge for society as a whole to believe that human activities contribute to climate change. Whether climate change is an issue to be concerned about, and whether they should act.

Without a high degree of certainty, public understanding, and support, policy and decision-makers, although concerned, are not necessarily moved to act.

However, uncertainty should not be used as an excuse not to act.  Failure to adapt may leave Ontario poorly prepared to cope with negative changes, and with increased probability of severe consequences.

As the climate continues to change, society’s ability to protect sensitive systems may be further challenged.  In addition, like the acid rain issue, there may be climatic surprises, e.g. unanticipated effects or a threshold change that may not necessarily be reversible after the stress is reduced or removed.

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