Winds of change bring a new environmental reality

By MPP Toby Barrett
To The Haldimand Press
The Ontario government is taking action to address issues of climate change. We have been acting as quickly as possible to fulfill our commitment. For example, we revoked the cap-and-trade carbon tax and ended emissions trading and allowances. In addition, we have now released our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan that takes concrete steps to protect our air, water, and land, and fight climate change.
Climate change is here. Our environmental legacy will be predicated on our capacity to adapt and to stop the worst consequences from materializing. Fortunately, another reality is that the Ontario government is committed to protecting the environment using a  balanced approach that creates jobs, respects taxpayers and grows the economy. But it is important to discuss what we’re fighting … the actual impact of climate change.
  More frequently, we hear media reports of severe weather that results in costly cleanups. And the insured losses we’ve incurred in Ontario during 2018 give an unnerving snapshot of the consequences.

  Earlier this year, a storm caused more than $46 million of insured damage in Brantford, Cambridge, London and the GTA. Then, winds and rains hit Hamilton and the GTA and caused over $500 million in damage. Further, we can’t forget the destruction from tornadoes in Ottawa this September.
  The people across Haldimand-Norfolk are close to the land and are among the first to notice changes in the weather and the attendant damage and costs extreme weather can inflict on crops and buildings. Farmers and those that work outdoors have long been aware of fluctuating temperatures and are taking note when scientists predict that the average annual temperature in Ontario could be increasing significantly.
  Milder winters and hotter summers create a paradise for insect and plant diseases. Lyme disease and West Nile virus, and other mosquito and tick-borne diseases, have been moving northward as our part of the world warms. And with increasing temperatures and phosphorus loads, many have taken notice of Lake Erie’s more frequent algal blooms and accelerated aquatic plant growth.
  These aren’t news items from a far-off land. These events affect our health, increase food costs, hurt our communities, and can mean large repair bills and higher insurance premiums.
  In a subsequent column, I’ll discuss our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan and how it’s constructed to meet the needs of Ontarians. As one with a background in agriculture and the outdoors, I’m excited about our environment plan. It draws on the expertise of environmentalists, scientists, stakeholders, Indigenous people, and the general public—more than 8,000 ideas and recommendations were received through our online portal. But more on that in a future column.
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