Why this Matters
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Climate adaptation is needed for the City of Thunder Bay to have a healthy, vibrant, connected, and strong future.
Water bodies, trees, natural landscapes, and healthy ecosystems in Thunder Bay play important roles. As green infrastructure, vegetation provides adaptive services by absorbing carbon, keeping the city cooler in the summer, and contributing to stormwater management thereby lowering flood risk. Similarly, wetlands and riparian zones attenuate peak flow associated with flooding and serve as natural filters to remove pollutants from the water.
However, warmer temperatures and extreme weather events pose risks to our natural landscapes. In addition to new environmental stresses associated with increasing average temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, climate change is predicted to exacerbate undesirable agents of rapid change, such as invasive pests, and increase pollutant loading into our waterways during heavy rain events. Extreme wind, freeze-thaw, and freezing rain events also have the potential to significantly damage/destroy our urban forest and impact local food production.
Climate change can be thought of as a pervasive economic shock that will potentially affect all sectors of the economy. The impacts of extreme weather event (such as flooding or ice storms) on roads and other infrastructure could disrupt distribution and communication networks, local businesses that depend on these networks, and have the potential to compromise Thunder Bay’s economy. Disruptions to essential service suppliers, such as grocery and drug stores, would also impact the health and safety of residents.
The economy of winter recreation activities that depends on consistent deep snow or ice (such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, and skiing) are most vulnerable while summer tourism will likely experience a boom if temperature increases are moderate. The loss of green infrastructure in neighbourhoods may also affect real estate value and decrease energy efficiency of residential buildings.
Aside from tourism, prospects in climate-adaptation based job growth (such as green technologies, alternative energy, infrastructure needs, building energy efficiency, new products and services, etc.) may prove beneficial. By planning for climate change impacts, local agricultural food production may also benefit from a longer growing season and with it, a local food system that will build economic resiliency.
Human health concerns and quality of life are extremely important aspects of climate change adaptation planning. Climate change poses significant risks to human health and well-being, particularly to those with special needs and on limited incomes. The impacts from extreme weather events, air quality, and water-, food-, vector- and rodent-borne diseases all have the potential to affect the lifestyle of Thunder Bay residents.
More summer heat spells expected in the region will likely lead to an increase in related health problems especially for vulnerable people. Higher humidity, an increase in ground-level ozone, and drifting smoke from forest fires may also result in poor air quality days and increased respiratory problems leading to an increased demand for medical services. The loss or decreased vitality of the urban forest that provides shade, absorbs pollutants, and provides feelings of well-being also has the potential to exacerbate health-related conditions.
The impacts of climate change are expected to affect outdoor activities and therefore the lifestyle of many Thunder Bay residents. Extreme weather events will increase risk exposure and warming temperatures will increase temperature dependent vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease. Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns may also affect seasonal recreation as well as the distribution and availability of fish, wildlife, and local food.
Erratic and intense weather conditions will affect municipal infrastructure. Increased precipitation in the form of intense downpours will challenge culvert capacity and other floodwater control systems. Roads may be impassable due to wash-outs, high water, downed trees, and deep snow. Infrastructure is also at risk from increased degradation and damage due to intense storm events and occurrence of more pronounced freeze/thaw situations. In general, climate change is expected to shorten asset-replacement cycles.
While Thunder Bay is used to and well prepared for snowy winters, climate change may produce more ice and sleet than usual, which will bring new challenges to infrastructure maintenance. Liability concerns will increase as extreme weather events cause damage to both grey and green infrastructure. Many aspects of energy supply, transmission, and demand will also be impacted by various dimensions of climate change, including higher temperatures, changing frequency and intensity of extreme events, and changes in water availability.
There are many opportunities to implement adaptive actions which will translate into long-term cost-savings for the whole community.