Manitoulin climate study will benchmark status of Island’s land and water health

MANITOULIN—The Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) has made a resolution to support the Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources’ (OCCIAR) proposed project for the development of partnerships to assess and manage the impact of climate change on Manitoulin Island.

The OCCIAR has also presented and discussed the concept with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising, Aundeck Omni Kaning and Wiikwemkoong, which have all supported the concept in theory.

“The OCCIAR is focused on helping people understand climate change and risks,” explained OCCIAR Director Allan Douglas. “We help assess the risks and work towards a solution to keep people resilient to climate change.”

Mr. Douglas has a history with Manitoulin, coming to the Island most summers as a youth and in 2001 purchasing Hide Away Lodge with his wife.

“Manitoulin is unique geologically and geographically and due to my ties with the Island I would like to ensure that Manitoulin is prepared for climate change,” said Mr. Douglas of the inspiration for the project.

Mr. Douglas is also lead of the Climate Change Adaption group at Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation in Sudbury, a mining research centre,  and was recently added to Canada’s Expert Panel on Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience Results.

Mr. Douglas and the OCCIAR began approaching Manitoulin municipalities and First Nations a year ago and has also provided initial support for Manitoulin Streams to collect data, research and promote the concept.

“The climate change risk assessment would follow a scalable, community-based four phase process that would take stock of: observations of climate change and extreme weather; ways in which we are vulnerable to those changes/events and ways we have coped over the years; with the aid of state-of-the-art, global climate change model data for the Island, gauge the extend to which systems risk will continue into the future; and ways to manage those existing and future risks,” explains the OCCIAR proposal. “The Island-wide assessment will be coordinated by OCCIAR with input from all partners who choose to participate. The collective of observations and impacts will help us better understand how we may be vulnerable to climate change and ultimately, work towards solutions that build resilience to changing climate.”

Mr. Douglas noted that the assessment could include impacts to the following key issues, sectors or systems: fish and aquatic species; fur bearing animals; migratory birds; water quality in Lake Huron and inland water bodies; agricultural; municipal infrastructure (drainage, roads, building, water treatment, drinking water, shoreline/docks/marinas); water quality; tourism and recreation (snowmobiling, skiing, ATV, ice fishing, golf); and/or others.

“Our next step is to host a meeting on the Island to pull all the parties together,” said Mr. Douglas. “We are hoping to organize something for mid-December. We want to get everyone’s input and what they feel the key risks are. This will help us develop a framework for moving forward.”

Mr. Douglas stressed that right now the project is only a concept but that the OCCIAR wants to solidify it, incorporating ideas from the Island partners.

For more information about the OCCIAR, visit climateontario.ca.