Following the release of a federal report assessing the impact of climate change on Canadian communities, a local climate change specialist says the effects have been felt across Windsor-Essex.
“We know that climate change is threatening some of the vital ecosystem services we have here and negatively impacting our Great Lakes and water resources as well,” said Claire Sanders, a climate change specialist with Essex Region Conservation Authority.
Canada in a Changing Climate: National Issues Report was spearheaded by Natural Resources Canada and released late last month.
The report says that thawing permafrost, erosion, invasive species, sea-level rises and changes to water quality could destroy fish and wildlife habitats and undermine the agriculture, fishing and forestry sectors and damage critical infrastructure like power grids, roads, railways and airports.
While a large portion of the report focused on rural communities, the report’s authors say the ripple effects will be felt beyond Indigenous communities and small towns.
In Windsor-Essex, the climate change impacts are being felt through an increase in flooding, rainfall and erosion, according to Sanders.
“It’s particularly an issue when our storm water sewers are full of lake water and then it rains on top of that. It’s just compounded issues,” said Sanders.
Sanders also referenced the rise in lake waters in the Great Lakes. Water levels were lower this spring due to mild and dry weather following two record-setting years, the Associated Press reported.
“We’re seeing higher highs and lower lows and that will continue to impact our shorelines,” said Sanders.
“We’ve been under flood watches and warning for hundreds of days over the last few years and those are expected to continue throughout the century.”
She said the changing climate also has an impact on agriculture.
“I think that we’re seeing these more intense rainfalls in the spring and we’ll see increasing days of drought in the summer, which are certain to impact our local crop production. Sometimes it can benefit in a good way, longer growing seasons. But those threats of extreme weather are really sort of the most concerning.”
She said governments at all levels have a responsibility to adapt to climate change and stop it from getting worse.