Climate Risk Institute named to conduct Ontario’s first climate change impact assessment

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MANITOULIN – The Ontario government has selected a consulting team led by the Climate Risk Institute (CRI) to conduct the province’s first ever climate change impact assessment, the province announced recently. The study will use the best science and information to better understand where and how climate change is likely to affect communities, critical infrastructure, economies and the natural environment while helping to strengthen the province’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. 

“The CRI is pleased to be leading this climate change impact assessment of vulnerabilities to Ontario’s natural environment, economies and communities, which is critical for prioritizing decisions that protect and create resilient investments, livelihoods, ecosystems and public health and safety,” said Al Douglas, president of CRI (and a familiar face on Manitoulin Island as owner/operator of Hideaway Lodge in Kagawong). “The assessment will support decisions that are informed by science and local knowledge and will allow for a more strategic approach to climate change adaptation planning in Ontario.”

Ontario’s climate is changing, with more frequent and extreme events such as severe rain, ice and wind storms, prolonged heat waves and milder winters. The assessment will evaluate climate change impacts at a provincial scale as well as focus analysis at a regional scale that takes into account the unique geographies, economies, municipalities and communities of those regions, according to a media release. It will also examine the impacts on a number of key themes including infrastructure, food and agriculture, people and communities, natural resources, ecosystems and the environment as well as business and the economy.

“Our government is committed to tackling climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions and helping communities and families prepare for the effects of our changing climate,” said Jeff Yurek, minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. The assessment is a key component of the province’s Made-in-Ontario Environment plan released in 2018. Last year Ontario also established an advisory panel to provide the Minister with advice on the implementation of the province’s climate change actions, especially how Ontarians can prepare for the costs and impacts of climate change. 

In 2018, insured damage for severe weather evens across Canada reached $1.9 billion. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that for every dollar paid out in insurance claims for homes and businesses, Canadian governments pay out $3 to recover public infrastructure damaged by severe weather.

Paul Kovacs is chair of the Advisory Panel on Climate Change. Mr. Kovacs is the founder of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) at Western University and has been the executive director of ICLR for the past 22 years. “Rigorous assessment of risk is an essential foundation for sustained, effective improvement to flooding, severe weather and other extreme climate events,” Mr. Kovacs said. “The Government of Ontario’s provincial climate change impact assessment is an important and welcome step towards the building of climate resilience across the province.”

CRI will be reviewing information such as climate data, land use patterns and socio-economic projects. The assessment will be conducted over the next two years and will include engagement with Indigenous communities, municipalities, key economic sectors and the public to ensure the final assessment reflects their various views and perspectives. The final results are anticipated to be released in 2022.