Climate change, the long term change in Earth's weather patterns - is one of the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time. A changing climate brings with it extreme heat, drought, flooding, more intense weather and storms, rising sea levels, and a host of other impacts that all contribute to enormous environmental, social and economic challenges.
Climate change is a global issue, but we're also seeing changes locally.
Shorter ice season
That's not just bad news for those who enjoy ice fishing.
A shorter ice season doesn't just mean a shorter ice fishing season. A number of key lake processes are driven by lake temperature, which can have dramatic impacts on the cycling and distribution of oxygen and nutrients in the lake.
There are also a number of biological processes that are tied to annual changes in lake temperatures. Changes in lake ice could alter the timing of these temperature changes potentially causing predator/prey relationships to become decoupled. For example, it could leave young fish with no prey to eat at key stages of development.
Kempenfelt Bay - Days of Ice Cover
The number of days with ice cover is on the decline. It's worth mentioning that the five years with the shortest ice cover occurred after the year 2000 and the five years with the longest ice cover occurred before 1900.
Seasonal changes in river and creek flow
We're seeing less water flowing into our creeks and rivers in spring, and more flowing in winter. Biological processes in our streams and rivers are tied to seasonal water flows.
The amount of phosphorus in the Lake is associated with the amount of run-off entering the Lake. And since climate change generally means more intense rain storms, and more intense storms mean more run-off, we can expect increased amounts of phosphorus entering the Lake.
For more details about the local impacts of climate change, see our
Science Newsletter Vol 5.
What we're doing
We're addressing climate change in two key ways:
Mitigation is about reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. Reducing greenhouse gases means decreasing the use of fossil fuels and promoting carbon capture (sequestering) through the protection and enhancement of natural areas such as forests.
We are in the midst of preparing a Climate Mitigation Strategy that will identify the main sources and sinks of greenhouse gases within the watershed. This overall understanding of the watershed's carbon budget will feed into recommendations for how we can mitigate climate change.
Initial steps in developing a Climate Mitigation Strategy are being taken in partnership with researchers from the University of Toronto and Lakehead University. Research groups at these universities are assessing the amount of carbon being sequestered in natural areas across the watershed. This information will help us rethink how and where we plant trees, and how best to manage the natural areas we own.
We are also engaged in our own
Carbon Reduction Strategy, a multi-year commitment to reducing our corporate carbon footprint by 40% by 2026.
“It is too late to avoid some disruptive and expensive changes to our environment and economy. But we can influence how destructive these changes will be. By working together, we can still protect much of what we love, by reducing the greenhouse gases that we emit into the air, and by preparing for the changes that are coming."
Environmental Commissioner's 2016 Annual Greenhouse Gas Report
Adaptation is about building resilience so that we prepare for the impacts of climate change such as extreme weather, drought and flooding. While we have already taken many steps to improve resiliency, we are currently finalizing an Adaptation Plan that takes a holistic assessment of all aspects of the Lake and watershed and will make recommendations as to how we can continue to improve. Examples of how we are currently building resilience are:
Low impact development is one way we're building resilience into the watershed. Low impact development is about adapting the way we build to help water mimic the natural process and go into the ground, not run-off into our waterways or overflow our infrastructure, leading to flooding.
Our Phosphorus Offsetting Policy, which came into effect in January 2018, requires new development to control 100% of the phosphorus from leaving the property.
- Forestry – We've just completed a comprehensive study to address the challenges faced to our forests as a result of climate change. The study, “Adapting Forestry Programs for Climate Change" was approved by our Board of Directors in May 2018 and includes a list of climate-suitable species.