Climate Action Plan Open House explored what the future holds

by Betty Bardswich

MINDEMOYA—In Mindemoya on December 2, concerned residents gathered for the Climate Action Plan Open House which was held at the community hall. Hosted by Central Manitoulin and Billings Climate Change Co-ordinator Kristin Koetsier, the event featured many different booths where people could learn more about what the future holds and what they can do about it.

The first subject was the near-term impacts on Manitoulin. There are several primary effects that allow for warmer winters, more days above 30 degrees, more precipitation and severe storms, less ice cover, more evaporation, higher lake temperatures and increased variability in lake levels.

Secondary effects are some that Islanders have already seen, starting with disease-bearing ticks and winter rain. Other outcomes are damage to infrastructure, flooding, power outages, decreased water balance, some species will be more vulnerable to predation, more fish die-offs, algae blooms, invasive species and the de-synchronization of species life cycles.

The tertiary consequences for Manitoulin will see rising health challenges and costs, icier roads, energy costs for cooling stations, repair and insurance costs rising, an increased demand for municipal water and a greater risk of forest fire.

There will also be many ripple effects from around the world including higher food prices, increased migration, societal/economic chaos and collapse. A shift in species present would also affect this area along with damage to local ecosystems and food supply and a change in tourism.

In a paper from the Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources (OCCIAR), it is noted that tourism during the summer and shoulder months has the potential to benefit significantly from a warming climate, provided that the proper adaptation measures are put into place. Warmer temperatures will allow many operations to prolong their working season; however, probable increases in severe weather events will have to be prepared for to minimize risks. Changes anticipated are that overall annual visits to Ontario’s provincial parks will increase, the golf season in the central Great Lakes region is projected to be longer and the beach seasons will extend. Recreational boating and fishing in the Great Lakes could have a longer ice-free season but may suffer from lower water levels due to increased evaporation as a result of hotter temperatures. Winter tourism, however, will suffer from climate change as the duration of snow and ice coverage will diminish. Skating seasons will start later and the ice fishing season could become shorter.

OCCIAR also outlined the changes to agriculture, which is not good news for Manitoulin’s farmers and beef producers. Heat stress could impact health, production and profitability of farm animals. Cattle can be stressed when heat lowers natural immunity making animals more vulnerable to disease. Cattlemen can make adaptions by providing shade and fresh water, increasing airflow over animals and using sprinklers in pastures. But extreme weather events and flooding can also cause problems such as an increase in the risk of illness and death, and could also increase the distribution of vector and non-vector borne infectious diseases in animals such as E. coli, Leptospirosis, Salmonellosis and Yersiniosis.

Central Manitoulin Municipal Co-ordinator Brad Christanson was one of those manning a booth at this event and answered questions and gave information on how municipal governments and residents could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by municipal operations in different areas with the area of the fleet being extremely high, of course, compared to the rest. Mr. Christanson spoke about ways to reduce these emissions, including efficient driver training, a transition to alternative fuels and education on recycling. For lowering emissions on buildings, a retrofit could make changes including looking into the use of solar panels and creating an internal energy policy. Other suggestions that were made were to install rain barrels, increase community gardens and replace grass with plants that need less water, use smaller vehicles, buy less stuff, advocate for less packaging and switch streetlights to LED lighting.

The MSS Share/Go Green committee had two students and a teacher in charge of that booth. Jocelyn Kuntsi and her mother, teacher Yana Bauer, and Ethan Theijsmeijer spoke of how the students are helping to bring focus to the climate changes coming and how they also do physical acts such as picking up garbage on the side of the roads, cleaning up gardens, collecting electronic waste and taking part in an Island walk that went from one end of Manitoulin to the other. The 30 students on this committee not only do local actions but also global. They support mothers in Kenya who make what is called a rafiki bracelet. In Swahili, this word means friend and the students sell them with the proceeds going back to Kenya. They also take orders for bamboo straws.

For more information on climate action, email Ms. Koetsier at centralcc@eastlink.ca