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New report paints dire picture of climate change in Ontario

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A report quietly released by the Ontario government suggests that climate change is having significant impacts on everything from agriculture to infrastructure and that the majority of the province will likely experience an average of over 60 extreme hot days per year by the end of the century.

The technical report, written by the Climate Risk Institute, was commissioned in 2020 and contains three years worth of information. It was published eight months ago in January, and was released publicly on a government website on Aug. 25.

The 553-page document paints a dire picture of how climate change is impacting Ontario, noting there are medium to very high risks associated with agriculture, infrastructure, business and people—in addition to the impacts on the natural environment.

“While there are adaptation efforts underway to address these impacts, the rapid pace of climate change requires large scale, accelerated action in all facets of our society and economy,” the report reads.

For Ontario’s agriculture, the report suggests the sector faces “declining productivity, crop failure and livestock fatalities,” with a very high risk of climate change impacts by the end of the century. It also suggests that risk profiles across all of Ontario’s natural systems and species is likely to rise to high or very high by 2050.

Infrastructure is already experiencing failures related to extreme weather and changing climate conditions, the report says, while most Ontario businesses will also face increased risks as a result.

In particular, the report notes that climate change impacts vulnerable populations across the province.

“The results of this impact assessment highlight the urgent need to limit key risks to Ontario’s people and communities. Intervention is needed to limit and avoid outcomes that can become inter-generational and further drive inequities for marginalized populations.”

The Climate Risk Institute warns that if greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly reduced, “warming trends will continue into the latter half of this century, leading to an increase in more devastating and frequent extreme weather.”

CTV News Toronto has reached out the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for comment. No press release was issued when the report was made public.

‘WE CAN EXPECT FAR WORSE SUMMERS IN THE FUTURE’

According to the report, the majority of Ontario will experience an average of over 60 days in which the temperature surpasses 30 C by the end of the century.

On average, these regions of the province experience up to 18 extreme hot days per year.

A government report found the number of extreme heat days is likely to triple by the end of the century.

As such, extreme cold days are expected to decline, from an average of over 55 days on average per year in northern Ontario to about 12 per year by 2080.

Peter Tabuns, the Ontario NDP critic for Energy and Climate Action, said on Wednesday that the report was striking.

I think this report sets out the stakes that are at play here in Ontario. We are facing substantial disruption to our economy, risks to people's lives and health,” he told reporters. “They said to us, we have a very difficult road ahead. As the world gets hotter.”

Over the last few months, Ontario experienced hazardous air quality as a result of fires from both northern Ontario as well as Alberta and Quebec. Extreme heat and severe thunderstorms also plagued the summer months.

According to provincial data, there has been 700 wildfires in Ontario so far in 2023. This is nearly three times the number of fires compared to the same time period last year, in which 247 fires blazed across the province.

“We had a really bad summer. We can expect far worse summers in the future,” Tabuns added.

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